Inexpensive LED grow lights starting to hit the market for orchid growers and hydroponic gardeners are a great investment for a refugium, low light marine aquarium or better yet for a planted freshwater tank. For the reef purist not paying attention to other semi-related hobbies, you are missing out on some great deals and cross-utilization of equipment to help you out. Orchid Web is showcasing a couple lights that are a prime example, for $35 you can nab the 60 LED lamp that consumes a mere 4 watts of power or for a smaller application you can grab the 38 LED lamp for $25. If you’re looking for more spread they have a nifty multichip LED with a focusing cone for $30 that reminds us of a smaller cousin of the Econlux NanoSun. While there are no PAR numbers associated with these lamps, with their use on delicate orchids I’m sure they are plenty bright enough to meet the photosynthesis requirements of aquarium plants and macro-algae.
We’ve had some pretty interesting conversations among the staff here at Reef Builders about tapping into the resources from other hobbies and applying them to the reefing world. Prime example, when needing to get some calibration reference solution for a pH probe I couldn’t find it at any of the local fish stores and was looking at a mail order purchase until I decided to stop by the local hydroponics store. I was able to grab the solution right then and there at a price that was much less than what I’d find at an LFS even if it carried them. Same thing when looking to replace some 10,000K T5 bulbs from a marine fixture for a planted freshwater system. At the fish store it was going to run me well over $15 a bulb to get some standard 6,500K daylight, the local growing store carried both the 6,500K and 3,000K lamps and was able to get two for under $20.
Turning the story back around to LED technology. It is exciting to see more availability and lower prices for LED lamps for residential and plant growth applications showing the technology really is getting some serious support in the R&D side. As with computer semiconductors, a similar Moore’s Law is starting to take shape as LEDs are becoming more prevalent, more powerful and more efficient while seeing the price fall to a more friendly level. This is a good sign for the reef aquarium hobby forecasting the future where the price of entry into the LED market will not be a limiting factor to the average hobbyist.