Reef lighting - The cheapest approach to lighting your saltwater tank | Reef FAQs
Choosing the most economical lighting option for your reef tank is not best approached by simply looking at the cost of the LED module or light fixture itself. Instead, consider how to avoid the endless cycle of upgrades or replacing failed equipment because it is these repeated purchases that really add up.
In order to do this, you need to find something reliable, that works right out of the box and will produce the desired results. We are not recommending the most expensive LED light either.
The most economical lighting choice with cost and performance in perfect balance is the Aquatic Life 4 Bulb T5/LED Hybrid light.
Proof is in the data
During our BRS Investigates experiments the Aquatic Life Hybrid using T5 bulbs only produced very even PAR numbers in the 100 - 150 range throughout the entire tank. This is great for a whole slew of tank types including the most popular beginner and intermediate tanks that generally consist of LPS, Mushrooms, Zoanthids and various other easy to care for corals.
This means the light works right out of the box without any additional equipment or modifications required.
Going from good to great
As your tank desires grow and you want to try more challenging corals such as SPS or maybe some Clams, simply add an LED light to the fixture. You will now have sufficient par and spread for any type of coral and avoided buying a completely new set of lights to fulfill your reefing dreams.
You started with one of the cheapest lighting options available and with one addition you created the best lighting solution available to reefers, a T5/LED hybrid.
What would BRS do?
We are firm believers in practicing what we preach here at BRS. Ryan’s favorite lighting option is a T5/LED hybrid and you will find this Aquatic Life Hybrid lighting over his SPS office tank with a single Kessil A360X.
The BRS160 also has a 4 lamp T5 hybrid, most of the WWC display tanks are T5/LED Hybrids taking advantage of the EcoTech Marine Radions. We did a little survey here at the office and most everyone prefers the T5/LED combo.
Using LED only is certainly an option, like what we did with the Red Sea Reefer 750 XXL using the grid of x10 Radion XR15 LEDs with diffusers. This will certainly add more flexible control, eliminate bulb changes altogether and arguably a cleaner install. The only catch here is you will end up spending 2 - 3 times more to achieve the same visually attractive, difficult to shadow, well-blended and even blanket of light you need to light your tank.
Finding the right LED light
At this point, it is quite clear that starting with a hybrid, specifically the Aquatic Life version, provides you the least expensive lighting solution that is upgrade proof and will save you the most money in the long run as your reef tank desires grow.
Finding the right aquarium LED lights to compliment your hybrid starts with research and BRStv Investigates is going to be your one stop shop for answers. We performed and published both PAR and spectrum tests using the Aquatic Life T5/LED hybrid alongside the industries most popular LED lights including the AI Prime HD, Kessil A360, and EcoTech Marine XR15.
All of which performed extremely well and be sure to check out all of our best lighting videos to help you find the right solution for your tank.