MH / LED usage in 2016

Discussion in 'Equipment' started by rygh, Jan 12, 2016.


What is the PRIMARY source of light for your tank. So ignore secondary enhancements.

  1. Metal Halide

    3 vote(s)
  2. LED

    40 vote(s)
  3. T5

    3 vote(s)
  4. Other???

    0 vote(s)
  1. Vhuang168

    Vhuang168 Supporting Member

    My 2 cents

    We can argue ourselves into or out of a type of light. I've had too many arguments that have gone no where on this because there are just too many variables to be able to compare apples to apples.

    I chose LEDs because of heat! I've had MH back 15yrs ago and I could heat the whole house with it! Summer was miserable and I turn off the light if the outside temp is anywhere close to 90+. House had no AC.

    Still a learning curve with LEDs. Not a simple plug n play like MH or T5s. Too many people jump to LEDs from T5 or MH but never gave their corals time to adapt ("I've had LEDs for 2 months and growth has stopped or my corals are dieing after I switch to LEDs!") or putting them at the same height as their MH T5 lights then turning them full blast cuz at 50% they look dimmer than their previous lights.

    Anyhoo, different strokes, different folks. Do your research, and pick what you like. As long as you do your homework and understand the pros and cons of each type and tier of light you pick, you'll be happy.

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  2. Enderturtle

    Enderturtle Volunteer

    I haven't sensed any arguing in this thread. I've met in person with most of the people who've posted in this thread. I can say we're all pretty nice people.

    The thing about forums and text-based discussions, is there's no Tone of Voice. So it's hard to tell when someone is upset or just speaking normally.

    We're just having a warm open discussion :p (probably because of the metal halides!)

    Currently 17 people polled for LEDS
    1 person polled for Metal Halides

    Here's @Kmooresf tank in one of its prime days. (acropora dominant tank)

    Lighting: Kessils and T5s
    • 5 Kessil A350 / A360 narrows accross the front. 2 Kessil A350 / 360 wide's on each side of overflow. 90watts each
      • All run at 100% for 8 hours a day.
    • TWO 36" Ecoxotic "Marine" fixtures 35watts. THREE 24" Ecoxotic "Marine" fixtures 25watts
      • 12 hours / day
    • THREE 36" Ecoxotic Stunner strips 18watts. THREE 24" Ecoxotic stunner strips 12w
      • 12 hours / day
    John Poletti's Tank in SF (Aspired Acropora Dominant Tank)
    • From what I remember it was mainly or entirely Metal Halides.
    • 600 Gallon Tank or something monstrously huge.
    Danillo's Reef (Aspired Acropora Dominant Tank)
    • Speaking with him, he didn't like the acropora growth rate from LEDS (radions)
    • I forget which but he switched to Metal Halides or T5s

    Reefcentral June 2015 Tank of the Month
    • In the front half - 4 Phoenix DE MH 14K bulbs, 4 x 250 watt Lumen Max-3 HQI pendents driven by 2 X Blue Wave double HQI ballasts & in the rh front corner is a Radion LED fixture
    • In the rear half of the tank is a mix of 12 x 48" T5 bulbs (actinic, Fiji Purple, super blue, daylights)
    • I also have 3 x Reefbrite blue LED fixtures running length wise across the center of the tank

    Scroll through the Reef Central Tank of the Month Articles.

    You'll see most of the acropora dominant tanks are mainly lit by Metal Halides/T5s. Sometimes they supplement with LED.
    Last edited: Jan 14, 2016
  3. zeroinverse

    zeroinverse Guest

    I did not realize there was even a poll. :)

    Filled in for LED, but am considering going to MH for better light spread. LED's directed light makes tank overall look less bright even though corals seem to grow ok.
  4. sfsuphysics

    sfsuphysics Supporting Member

    I think Kris' tank is a good example as to why you don't listen to manufacturers as far as ratings. 7 Kessil 3xx units, if each was equivalent to a 250 MH bulb, that's 7 250W halide bulbs, which even for a tank of his size would be overkill.

    So still wrestling with the idea of how efficient are they really.
  5. Vhuang168

    Vhuang168 Supporting Member

    Reason people go with more than manufacturer recommended number of lights is not because they don't put out enough light. It's to reduce shadowing. I would guess that Kris's runs them below 100%.

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  6. Enderturtle

    Enderturtle Volunteer

    Yeah I have no personal experience with MHs or T5s.

    You're saying a Kessil 360WE uses up as much energy as a 250W Metal Halide Bulb?
  7. Tskiller

    Tskiller Guest

    I've got a kill-a-watt in a box somewhere. We can test this.
  8. sfsuphysics

    sfsuphysics Supporting Member

    That is not what I'm saying, I'm saying Kessil has said before that a 350 is equivalent to a 250W metal halide as far as light output, and 7 - 250w halides above a tank that size would be a bit overkill, so my conclusion is that the Kessil 300 series is not the same light output as a 250W metal halide.

    I think the power usage is somewhere in the 90 watt range for the 300 series, so yeah, significantly less power than a metal halide lamp
  9. sfsuphysics

    sfsuphysics Supporting Member

    Oh absolutely, I think Kris did mention at one point about shadowing issues, now that could be because his corals grow like they're on steroids! :D That said, what Mike posted said they're run at 100%
  10. wpeterson

    wpeterson Webmaster

    The A350 Kessils draw 90W of power. The biggest issue with LEDs that folks don't often talk/think about are lenses - choosing the right lensing for your tank is important.

    My current 90g tank is 26" from top to bottom, so the wide angle Kessil's don't penetrate as well as the narrow lenses. However, the narrow lenses don't cover as much space. I'm using two wide and one narrow on my tank because that was what I had, but I would have been better off with 3x narrow A350s in this tank. I believe that @Kmooresf described having similar frustrations getting enough light with his Kessil's for a large/deep tank and had added cheap LED strip lights to provide more fill and reduce shadowing.

    It surprises me that a lot of cheaper or DIY LEDs don't even have any kind of lenses on them.

    My take away from issues getting light into my deeper tank is that I would never want a tank more than 18-20" deep in the future. This is where I would prefer something like the DSA 105 (48x24x20) vs. the DSA 90 (36x24x26) I have if it fit in my living room. Perhaps for my next tank.
  11. rygh

    rygh Supporting Member

    Yes, fun discussion of opinions, certainly no flame war here.

    Please do the poll, that was sortof the whole point of the thread at first.

    Shadow issues was one of the key reasons I went with small clusters of 3 x 3W LEDs, instead of a few high output clusters.

    It is funny, I went through my old designs from 2009 when I was first deciding what to do on lighting, and remembered this one.
    A DIY MH / LED combo, where the SPS would be in the center of the tank, lit by MH, and softies on each end.
  12. aqua-nut

    aqua-nut Supporting Member

    This is a great discussion. We all come at this with different needs and desires. So far the discussion has been friendly - not a flame in sight!

    If you haven't seen it, BRS is doing a '52 weeks of reefing' series that is quite good. Their discussion of lighting options starts on week 18 and can be found at

    Enderturtle and wpeterson like this.
  13. Kmooresf

    Kmooresf Supporting Member

    Well, a couple things I have learned about LED's...........

    I run my kessils around 11" from the top of the water at 100% intensity. I have some corals that grow directly under those lights.......some very low / bottom, and some only a few inches under the surface. All do well, good color, etc.............when they are happy. A LOT of variables need to be considered when thinking about whether a coral is "happy" or not. If you don't get good color, good growth, good PE, etc. It could be from flow, light, a stinging neighbor, a pissy fish, etc, etc, etc. Give it some time, observe it at all times of the day and don't be afraid to try a different spot if you are not getting the results you want. I have had a few corals that just sort of survived....some spindly growth......bland on the colors. Then I moved them to a different spot and BOOM! They start growing and colors pop. I used to pick corals and say......." That would look great in that specific spot" only to find it hated that spot. Even if they are encrusting......if it doesn't look happy. MOVE it!!

    Anyway, A few things to consider...........I have a few surviving Kessils that I have had running approx 11 hours / day for over 3.5 years. I have had a few lights (2 I think) that have crapped out............both promptly replaced by Kessil at no charge to me. I have had about 5 power supplies go out and Kessil has replaced every one. I think I may have worn out my welcome, and doubt I will have anymore freebies, but I am quite satisfied with the customer service I have received. I admit that when I had bought halides, I bought CHEAP! But I also had a lot of problems, and never had one replaced by the manufacturer. So, I would buy Kessil again, simply for the customer service. It helps that they grow the shit out of coral too!! ;)

    As for lenses.........I use the narrow versions across the front of the tank (5 of them) because I have a 26" tall tank. Run at 100% intensity (accept below) and 50/50 white to blue. These don't cover the 31" front to back, so I added two Kessil on each side of the overflow in the back of the tank. These I run at 100% intensity and 100% blue (helps pop the coral...especially LPS).

    I did add the Ecoxotic "marine" fixtures.......both for shadowing (although the tank looks badass when I just run the kessils) and to give me the sunrise / sunset features (I started with 350's that were not controllable). I added some stunner strips to give a little more color. I love this setup a lot. It has worked well for me. I went through two power supplies with Ecoxotic and the first was replaced.......the second, I had to buy.

    Something a lot of you might not consider about Mh or T5' can't turn them down. I have an array of light over my tank, but it's completely adjustable. I now run one of my Narrows at about 60% intensity because I have moved a lot of my LPS and chalice coral directly underneath. They don't like the super bright light as much as the SPS do, and simply dialing down the intensity has allowed them to really color up and be fluffy and happy.

    NOISE!!!!! Sorry........MH require more than just a tiny fan. They need some serious fans.......they may start out all nice and quiet, but as fans run for awhile, they get louder and louder. 3.5 years of kessils with the tiny little fans.........they do make a little hum, but that's it. T5's generally don't have that issue.

    I do like T5's for their even distribution of light.......even growth patterns and decent color choices / options. I hate that there is no shimmer. If I did run T5's, you better believe I would mix them with LED's to get some shimmer, cause it does make the tank look nice. T5's need to be changed quite's difficult to change a bulb that looks nice and bright. :(

    Ok, that's my 2 cents. ;)

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  14. wpeterson

    wpeterson Webmaster

    Thanks for sharing your experience and advice. It's always good to put what people say in the context of how ambitious their tank is and how long it's been running. By that token, I'm always eager to hear what @Kmooresf has to say.

    How do you find the time scale is for moving coral to a new location? How long do you leave them in a target location to acclimate? I usually shoot for 2-3 weeks before changing a location but I'm curious how you judge this.
  15. Kmooresf

    Kmooresf Supporting Member

    Ah, well..........time scale is a good question. 2-3 weeks is a good estimate. However, if nothing in your tank is growing.........then you have other concerns. If you have new growth, and the new coral is not showing improvement.......then it's time to move.

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  16. Vincerama2

    Vincerama2 Evil Overlord

    I use three Kessil LED pendants over my tank (6' 180G) and I'm thinking it's not sufficient. Though my "green with purple tip anemones" which were brown under MH lights actually are green with purple tips under the LEDs.

    I maybe take the MH from my old canopy and install them over this tank, but not run them for a long period of time daily, maybe only after peak hours.
  17. Vhuang168

    Vhuang168 Supporting Member

    3 350/360 over 6' is definitely not enough. 4 would be ok for LPS but I think you would need 5+ for sps

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  18. rygh

    rygh Supporting Member

    Interestingly enough, there are T5/HO dimmable ballasts out there.
    For example:
    However, expensive, and may mess with the color temp.
  19. Kmooresf

    Kmooresf Supporting Member

    Wow!! I had no idea. I would think fluorescent bulbs would flicker at lower voltage. This is very cool. Thx.

    Although, I would still probably just supplement the T5's with some LED controllable strip lights and get the best of both worlds. Lot's of options out there now that aren't insanely expensive.

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    Coral reefer likes this.
  20. Coral reefer

    Coral reefer President

    You getting shadows or din areas? Try a reef brite strip or two maybe? Or make your own from rapid led.

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