While at Reef-A-Palooza we were quite pleased with the color mixture of the T5 fluorescent bulbs over the display tank at the Aqua Medic booth and we wanted to get a closer look at the company’s Aqualine T5 bulbs first hand. Aqua Medic sent us out an array of their T5 light bulbs and recently we were able to check these out in the field and give you our perspective on these bulbs.
The Aqua Medic Aqualine bulbs come in four flavors — Reef White 10K, Reef White 15K, Reef Blue and Plant Grow. The two Reef White bulbs are pretty straightforward giving you a crisp white bulb in either a 10,000K or 15,000K look. The Reef White 15K is very similar to what you would find in an ATI Aquablue Special. The Reef Blue is a the bulb you want if you are looking for a higher intensity blue bulb, emitting blue light between b400 nm and 500 nm and peaking at 420 nm — very similar with what you’d find with an ATI Blue Plus. The Aqualine Plant Grow is a slightly pink bulb geared towards the planted aquarium but can add some pop in the orange and red areas of your tank in a six or eight bulb setup.
We took our cache of German-made Aqua Medic T5 tubes to Neptune Aquatics in Milpitas, Calif. to put them to the test and get a few more people’s input on the coloration. We put the bulbs over a 90g mixed reef aquarium that had a lot of variety on color and coral texture for our testing. The aquarium was being lit with a four-bulb AquaticLife HO T5 fixture with two ATI Aquablue Special and two ATI Blue Plus bulbs giving you your typical reef light look. Unfortunetely we didn’t have a PAR meter on hand but were able to get a lux meter to at least get some way to get a reference for our test. We would include the numbers in our review if a certain author (hmmmm….maybe the one penning this post?) didn’t misplace their notes.
The image above was our reference using the bulbs Neptune had installed in the T5 and as we mentioned before, contained a pair of ATI Aqua Blue Special and a pair of ATI Aqua Blue Plus bulbs. The bulbs have been running for around eight or nine months and still produced a very pleasing, crisp light.
For our first test we decided to run the entire line of Aqua Medic Aqualine T5 bulbs in the setup. We anticipated a less crisp color but with the addition of the Plant Grow figured we’d get a little more pop in the reds and oranges in the tank. We arranged the bulbs front to back: Reef White 15K, Reef Blue, Plant Grow, Reef White 10K. This would not be your typical setup but felt it would give a nice blend of all the four bulbs.
We were pleased to see the pop in the reds and all of us really were surprised to see just how well these colors appeared. While the images aren’t the best photographic evidence, you get the main feel of what we experienced. As you can see in the image and what translates well to our firsthand experience was the richness of the green in the green star polyps, the deeper coloration of the yellow leather coral and even improved coloration of the resident sailfin tang in the tank. The numbers on the lux meter were just a hair lower overall at different depths and areas of the tank.
We decided to go with a more traditional four-bulb T5 with the last one replacing the Plan Grow with another Aqualine Reef Blue bulb with the Reef White 15K in front followed by a Reef Blue, Reef White 10K and the second Reef Blue in the rear. This color closely matched the initial lighting we found on the tank and the lux numbers were just a hair higher than the ATI reference readings we took, which can easily be understood with the age of the original bulbs.
Overall our impressions of the Aqua Medic Aqualine T5 is solid and would definitely put this in the upper echelon of T5 lighting options for our reef tanks. The MSRP of the bulbs come around $25 for the 48 in. 54W lights but deals can be found that just make this a solid choice the next time you want to replace your T5 bulbs.
FTC regulations require that we inform you that we were given this product for review, but our opinion of a product is never affected by how we acquire them.