The name Nano Box Reef has been around for a while, and is certainly making quite the splash in the aquarium world of late. With everything being hand built and customized in every degree, there is certainly a lot of appeal with the products that Dave Fason, owner and operator of Nano Box Reef, makes for each one of his customers. While we have seen many of his products over the years at various trade shows and online, we haven’t had much opportunity to really play with one of his creations for an extended period over a reef tank. Well, now is that time.
The Mini series is just that, mini. Measuring at a scant 3″x5″x1.25″, it comes in far smaller than the vast majority of commercially available fixtures on the market today. Being small doesn’t mean it’s not powerful though. We will get into the specifics on that here shortly.
The fixture comes boxed simply, but well. Inside the box you will find the fixture itself, the driver box, and the power supply. A handful of stickers and business cards also come along for the ride.
Everything about this fixture is simple, but in a very good way. There’s no unnecessary fluff involved. What you get is everything you need, and nothing you don’t. Everything is pre-wired for you from the drivers to the LEDs. There is no breakaway connector between the two units which, for a fixture this small and tidy, really isn’t all that necessary. Having the main cable run up through the flexible gooseneck, making everything neat and tidy more than makes up for it.
In addition to the main cable going to the fixture (which is sheathed in a very high quality braided sleeve, and is customizable in almost any color at your request), you will find a socket for the power supply to plug into, as well as the external connection for dimming control. This particular unit was configured for a two channel setup to be connected to a Bluefish controller, but options are available to have it connected to other controllers, like the Coralux Storm, or even manual dimming.
Even though the design of the fixture is quite simple, everything about it is clean. There are no visible machining marks, rough or sharp edges, or blemishes on this product, which is built individually by hand for each customer. As much as possible on this fixture is made in the US, which is something that Nano Box Reef is very proud of, as shown by the stamp placed at the end of every one of their fixtures.
The top of the fixture has a vent with a screen under it. Even the color of the screen can be changed by the customer at the time of order, along with the color of the end caps. Under that screen though, hides the small heatsink, and a small, low noise fan. While it’s not dead silent, most of the time you can’t hear it over the other sounds of the aquarium, and has never been obtrusive during its use.
The heart of the fixture lies under a small section of acrylic. The LED engine consists primarily of Luxeon Rebel LEDs, with SemiLEDs filling in for the violet end of the spectrum. The eleven LEDs on the main printed circuit board are split into two channels, and forms the default base configuration for the Mini line. The additional board offers two more channels if needed, or they can be tied into the other two channels on the main MCPCB. Again, as everything about these fixtures is customized to the customers needs, a huge range of options is available to the end user.
The driver box can be outfitted with three channels of control, with 700mA drivers coming as standard.
This particular fixture was configured as so:
- 4x Royal Blue
- 1x Blue
- 1x Cyan
- 2x 4500K Neutral White
- 1x 3000K Warm White
- 2x Lime
- 2x 420nm Violet
This is the first fixture that we have come across that features the new Luxeon Rebel Lime color, and wow, what a difference it makes to the overall color of the light and the tank. While the color would probably have been good without them, the addition of them makes the tank look far brighter, and with a color much closer to metal halide. It’s hard to really describe, but the overall effect is incredible. Is this the secret sauce that LED fixtures have been missing all this time? Maybe, maybe not. Regardless, it works wonderfully here.
Two channels of control may be a bit of a turn off for some who like granular control over their light, but it never really felt like a major limitation. The mix of colors on the two channels work well together. Those looking for the option of running the light at a really deep blue color may end up a little disappointed, as the addition of the blue and cyan LEDs to the royal blues makes the color lighter and brighter than royal blues alone. That setup is more for show than anything, but the two channel setup still allows for a decent range for color temperature options.
The fixture is being run over an 8.5g all-in-one aquarium (15″x15″x9″) from PicOAquariums, and lights it to every corner and edge perfectly. It’s possible that it could be used up to an 18″ square footprint tank, but anything more than 12″ tall might be pushing the limitations of what this little fixture can do. Currently, the blue channel is at 100%, with the white channel at 60%.
The resulting color temperature is somewhere between 12,000K and 14,000K, with better overall color rendering than most metal halides of a similar CCT. Reds are doing really well from the addition of the warm white LED, and blends far better than a discrete red LED would while giving a similar effect. The lime LEDs are also making the greens really pop. PAR is more than sufficient to handle sps in a tank of this size, but it’s also well adept at keeping everything else you could want.
Overall, the fixture has been a pleasure to use. The color of the light and the corals is just about perfect, and it’s small enough to be unobtrusive when looking at the tank. Some may consider the $250 starting price for the Mini Tide to be too high when compared to fixtures of a similar size, but none of them have the options or quality of this product, or the full spectrum output. The ability to customize almost every aspect of this fixture makes every unit unique to their owners, and adds to it’s value.
The NanoBox Reef Mini line is also available in the Flare and Glow models, with the Flare being set up for freshwater and planted tanks, and the Glow being a wide spectrum violet and blue supplemental light for those with a need for extreme fluorescence. If you are in the need for a small, powerful, full spectrum light for your nano reef tank, don’t hesitate to look to Nano Box Reef and their Mini Tide for your lighting needs.[Nano Box Reef]
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.