BRStv Investigates: PAR & Spectrum Testing for Effective Refugium Lights

September 7th, 2017
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Today on BRStv, we have a brand new episode of our series, BRStv Investigates. In this series, we explore popular reefing theories, products, methods, and what the manuals are missing, with a focus on putting them to the test!
We have had numerous reefers ask us to test the Black Box LED lights that are available direct from China, and only cost around $100. We were a bit hesitant to test them since was a hard one to publicize because many manufacturers don't like the Black Box LEDs, but there are also a good share of people that have used them with great success, so we figured lets put them to the test!
Now, can you grow coral and maintain a reef tank with a $100 LED? The simple answer is yes. However, if you expect it to perform like an Ecotech Radion, or AI Hydra, you will be disappointed. We have tried a few different versions of China LED aquarium lights and a majority of them are built the same, lacking an actual heat sink, non-UL approved power supplies, low-quality LEDs and optics which leads to a serious risk of fire or electrocution. We actually know a couple of people that have experienced those dangers first hand, making it a light that we would personally never recommend to place in your house.
Onto the testing side of the Black Box, there is no doubt that it can put out some high PAR values but when compared to other LEDs commonly sold in the USA the overall efficiency was lacking. There were also prominent hot spots that could be combatted by just raising the light up to help with the blending of the light. After PAR testing the light, we also found that the overall light distribution was very narrow creating a focus of light directly in the center of the tank. You could help with the lighting spread and distribution by increasing the distance of the light from the top of the aquarium, and we found about 24” was the sweet spot.
The control options that are included with typical Black Box LEDs are two simple knobs, one for channel A and one for Channel B. The control of the light is pretty easy, but daily ramping features and fine tune of each individual color is simply not available. Overall the light did work and put out some high PAR values, but when comparing them to other industry leading lights, you definitely get what you pay for.
If you liked this episode, and want to watch more, keep an eye out because we release new BRStv Investigates episodes every Friday. We have many more tests that we are currently running and then a bunch more that we want to complete. If you want us to investigate everything make sure to let us know in the comments below.
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