We happened to be visiting Vivid Aquariums yesterday and noticed that their overhauled 800 gallon display reef aquarium is sporting a curious dichotomy of old school and new school lighting. With the 2011 LED showdown now over and tons of readers having participated in the voting, it’s clear that LED reef aquarium lights are here to stay. Although we don’t yet know what room LEDs are leaving for T5 fluorescent tubes in the future of reef aquarium lighting, reefers still love metal halides and rightfully so. Metal halide lamps are still a very affordable and effective way to produce full spectrum lighting for shallow water corals, including some UV light for color production.
So what a perfect time for Vivid to be doing this LED vs Metal Halide experiment using top of the line lights from both conventional and new age lighting technologies. The left side of the 16 foot reef tank is illuminated with 2800 watts of metal halide lighting, two 1000 and two 400 watters. The right side of the Vivid display reef tank is lit with 12 Ecotech Marine Radion XR30w LEDs, each pulling about 140 watts for a total of 1680 watts, a little more than half the power draw of the metal halide lights. When looking at the tank, it’s actually not obvious which side is using which lights, even the shimmer of the Radion LEDs looks very similar to the halides since they are mounted fairly high above the water surface.
Vivid Aquariums has placed all manner of SPS and LPS corals on both sides of the tank with clones basking under both metal halide arcs and diodes, looking colorful but different under both. It’ll be a while still before Vivid can document notable differences between the halides and the T5 but with their serious SPS coral skills, we look forward to seeing how this tank develops over time. For more details on this aquarium be sure to visit the Vivid Aquariums webpage where they are beginning to chronicle the two sides of the tank with normalization for PAR etc.