We are all aware that the spectrum of a light source, be it halide or T5 will shift over time; this is why it is recommended to change your T5 tubes and halide bulbs every 6-9 months. However it is not only time and spectrum that can affect the quality of your lighting there are other factors that should be taken into consideration as well. It is ok to have a perfect spectrum but some of these factors if not all of them also need to be taken into consideration when purchasing a lighting unit as the spectrum may not be as it seems if the following factors are not taken into consideration.
- Temperature- T5’s & LEDSs have an optimum running temperature this temperature will prolong the life of your tubes and LEDs and allow them to perform at the peak of their performance for the longest period. Running T5’s or LEDs above or below this temperature will have a negative effect on the lifespan and performance of a tube or LED. For more information on the temperature effect on T5 lighting please read our lighting temperature control. An LED’s colour, or wavelength, will change with temperature. As the die temperature increases, the wavelength of the colour increases. This means that if an LED is ran at increased temperatures the spectrum of the LED will be different from the advertised spectrum; known as spectrum shift. This could cause nuisance algae and deteriorating coral health. Temperature is controlled in aquarium lighting by different methods, using heat sinks, cooling fans and air movement, this is known as heat dissipation. Without good heat dissipation the LED or T5 will run hot; heat sinks are used in LED lighting, normally made of dense aluminium. This heat sink allows the heat generated to be dissipated away from the LED, which in turn will prolong its lifespan and effectiveness. Fans are mainly used in T5 lighting to move the heat generated by the bulbs and ballast away from the aquarium to keep the lighting around 35°.
- Ballast Type and Efficiency- Not all ballasts used in aquarium lighting are energy efficient; some have a very poor power efficiency which in turn will have a negative effect on the effectiveness and the efficiency of a High Output T5 tube. There are different types of ballasts used for halide lighting, Electronic, Magnetic and Digital for halides. Electric ballasts are proven to be more efficient however the spectrum of the bulb may not be correct if the bulb was manufactured for magnetic ballasts, this often occurs in 250w halides. There is very little, if any spectrum shift in an industry standard 150w double ended halide.
- Reflection – Although very popular within the industry T5’s emit a lot of light that is not utilised in the aquarium. This light is the light that comes from the top of the bulb. With the aid of reflectors you are able to increase the light output of your T5’s without adding any more power consumption to your lighting, basically giving you free light, click here for more information on reflectors. You will notice that most halide units have built in reflectors this again will help to increase the light direction towards your aquarium. LEDs use a slightly different form or reflection, they utilise a lens to focus their light output and lenses are used to direct and magnify that light. Improper use of a lens or using a LED without a lens will reduce the effectiveness of the LED and lower its spread of light.
- Dimming –Some LED and some T5 units available on the market today have a dimming feature; although this can be used to create a nice “look” to your aquarium it isn’t necessarily good for your aquarium. When an LED or T5 is dimmed the spectrum becomes altered from the advertised spectrum this could potentially cause an increased risk of nuisance algae’s taking hold, and is now starting to be regarded as a sales gimmick. Click here for more information on dimming.
- Overrunning- Overrunning a light source will have a negative effect on the life, effectiveness and spectrum of the bulb. Overrunning an LED, T5 or Halide can reduce its lifespan by anything up to half. As with under running (dimming) the spectrum of an overrun light source will be different from the one advertised by the manufacturer.
- Storm Patterns- The great thing about LED’s is they can be made to operate in different ways, this has led to controllers being made for LED units that are able to make the LEDs flash on and off is if there was electrical storm overhead. Although this looks brilliant it can have a negative effect on the health of your aquarium. If you have ever been diving you will know that during a storm all fish will bolt to safety and hide away, they do not like storms ! In an aquarium the fish has nowhere to run and as such is put under stress, there has been an increased amount of outbreaks of diseases such as white spot in aquariums that use storm functions. Storms can induce spawning in some corals so if you have a coral only setup then it’s a function that may be useful to you; however as with dimming storm patterns are becoming known as a gimmick and we advise caution when purchasing a unit for these features.
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