Matt continues his review of the Ecoxotic 25 gallon LED aquarium system which will be the future home of the Lightning Maroon Clownfish. Following up on his unboxing of the stand and the tank, and the Panorama LED fixture, here is Matt’s final installment on the package’s Stunner LED strip and overall first impressions of the system from Ecoxotic.
You’ve probably seen “Stunner Strips” popping up as a quick reef aquarium LED lighting retrofit, or add-on for shimmer or moonlighting. Each stunner strip utilizes only 6W of power, yet packs a punch. Each water resistant strip has 24 little LEDs. The strips are modular and do require an external power supply. One power supply can run up to six Stunner Strips. You can connect them in a series and there are also splitters to set them up in parallel.
The Ecoxotic Panorama 17.5 in. LED Fixture ships with one 453nm Blue Stunner Strip plus a 24V Power Supply and some accessories. This is your supplemental actinic or moonlight for the system.
So yeah, basic setup is truly a snap. Make a few connections and plug it in. So really, the only question was “How do I mount this in the Panorama Fixture?” Well, there are several stock mounting options.
The Stunner Strip comes with two metal clips and two screws. You can screw the stunner strip directly into something else, or you can screw the clips in and then attached the Stunner Strip with the clips. I liked the idea of having the Stunner Strip easily removable should I ever want to swap it out, so the clips were attractive to me. Unfortunately, I’m not adventurous enough to drill into the metal Panorama housing just to attached these clips. So, the only real option is double sided tape, already installed on the back of the stunner strip (see the red 3M tape in the second image above). This seemed a bit permanent, so I came up with my own option – picked up some double-sided foam tape from the hardware store and taped the clips to the housing with that! Not sure if it will work well or not, but I can always go with the pre-installed tape later on (Ecoxotic tells me that while strong, if you really need to, you can remove a Stunner Strip that has been mounted using that tape). So here’s how the Stunner Strip got installed.
And there you have it. Really not that hard. One of the things I struggled with was the “tail,” the extra cord coming off the end of the Stunner Strip that can be used to daisy-chain Stunner Strips together. In what I have to call a “Duh” kind of moment, Ike reminded me that there are two small cord clips that come with the Stunner Strip. All I had to do was clip it onto the loose end, take off the tape backing, and stick it wherever I wanted. Yeah…sometimes I really overlook the obvious!
I really must mention there are currently four color options for the Stunner Strips similar to the main Panorama Modules — 453nm Blue, 403nm UltraViolet, 8000K White, and a combo that’s 75% 8000K and 25% 453nm Blue. Ecoxotic also shared with Reef Builders that soon, we should see four new colors for Stunner Strips (we’ll spill the beans on colors when the time comes!). The other inside scoop — Stunner Strips will be coming out in new lengths too (for all your retrofitters out there). Truly, there are endless combinations of LED light.
If you want to utilize controls or a timer to control stunner strips separately, you’ll need a power supply for each “grouping” you want to run independently. I’m already thinking we need to add a few more stunners to the system: one white to light up a central chamber refugium (one circuit), maybe the 453nm blues on it’s own circuit, perhaps a pair of 403nm UVs (aka purple) running separately, and if I really wanted to go crazy, two whites up top on their own circuit (but only if I had a controller that would simulate “lightning flashes,” because if my tank ever had a “storm” mode it better be able to have lighting!). I can dream…but I think you get the point.
And I get an EcoCham too?!
Yes, the Panorama Fixture even came with a cleaning “cloth.” A nice touch, but obviously with the underlying intentions of motivating consumers to use less paper towels! Admittedly, I’m a bit hard pressed to give up my paper towels and 7th Generation Glass Cleaner…seems to work really well on glass, especially with salt drips. I’m still willing to give it a try…this synthetic foam-like product certainly holds a lot of water.
So how does the Ecoxotic 25 gallon 17.5 in. Cube LED Aquarium System stack up?
A few years ago, my fellow interactive designers dubbed me “The Shredder” — I think there was a certain amount of dread if I sat down to do QA (quality assurance, aka testing) on their work. Why? Because I find stuff. Because I pay attention to detail. Because I look for ways to improve. Typically there’s lots of notes. I hope I did my nickname justice in giving the Ecoxotic system an thorough fresh-out-of-the-box shakedown. In the end, there was certainly a lot of notes back to Ike at Ecoxotic asking questions and providing unsolicited opinions and ideas. I’m surprised he hasn’t had my emails diverted to his junkbox!
I will tell you now, if you are out there looking at something like a JBJ LED Nanocube 24 (which seems to retail online for about $650 plus shipping), and then you look at something like the Ecoxotic 25 gallon LED system (the system as shown here retails direct from Ecoxotic at around $1,149 plus shipping with the stand-mounted lighting) you might be scared off by the vast price range, especially if you’re only window-shopping online. But in truth, you’re comparing a $5 screw-top Merlot to a $20 Argentine Malbec (or a Mazda Miata to a Tesla Roadster). Both may be nice for what they are, but they are truly in different classes from the get go.
That said, this is the highest quality “all-in-one” cube system I’ve personally worked with (again, I have several Nanocubes, and for a brief time, I did own a Biocube as well). Everything about the fit and finish of the Ecoxotic system suggests that unlike my bevy of Nanocubes, this setup will not start wearing out after only a couple years of normal use.
Is this setup the absolute best of the best, first-in-class leader? That’s hard to say, if only because I lack the overall first-hand knowledge of similar competing products (the CAD Lights I see banner ads for here on Reef Builders come to mind). Definitely, the Ecoxotic 25 Gallon LED Aquarium System is a high-end, high-quality product. My hunch is that if you go up from here, you’re starting to look at systems the average hobbyist may not find affordable, and you may be talking about more custom setups for consumers who are flush with cash. I certainly found ideas for improvements or things I might have wanted differently, but that shouldn’t be taken as a discouraging remark. That’s me, being “The Shredder”!
Truly though, I found it really tough to suggest changes to the Panorama LED lighting system, and LEDs are certainly Ecoxotic’s first love, so they should be darn good! Sure, I suppose you could give them built in dimming or programing capabilities, but to a great extent I view those types of components as fluff — they appeal more to the end user and are inconsequential to actually keeping reef animals alive. No, Ecoxotic excelled at producing a well-thought-out LED Lighting System that should provide for a very long life, with all the light you should need to get the job done, at a price point that makes it competitive if not superior to other lighting forms over the long haul.
Of course, the final note — you can buy all the components of the Ecoxotic 25 Gallon LED Aquarium System independently of each other if you like. Certainly, Panorama fixtures are ideal upgrades when you’re ready to ditch your heat producing, energy sucking reef aquarium lighting, and Stunner Strips are already making big inroads into the hobbyist world (afterall, if a guy living in the rural outskirts of Duluth, Minnesota, has purchased Stunner Strips months ago for a larger reef, I’m not revealing any secrets when I say the word is already out).
Thanks go to Ike Eigenbrode at Ecoxotic for contributing this new home for the Lightning Maroon Clownfish, especially since he probably didn’t really know what he was getting into when he volunteered to help out The Lightning Project! Thanks also to Jake & Ryan for letting me go hog wild on a product review of this system, and for Brian who worked tirelessly as the editor to break one massive article into 4 solid installments. Besides, saying “it’s damn nice” and leaving it there certainly doesn’t give our readers useful insights. I hope you all enjoyed it and welcome your comments and questions.
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.