Illumagic is a Taiwanese company that has been making LED aquarium lights about as long as all the major players in the aquarium hobby. Being separate from mainland China, Europe and North America, Illumagic has really been able to develop their LED aquarium lights with minimal outside influence. Over the years it has resulted in a unique design of their aquarium lights which is inherently their own.
If you’ve never heard of Illumagic, or it sounds only vaguely familiar, that’s because this company’s market penetration has been most successful in Asia and especially Australia. This is where fixtures like the Blaze, Blaze X and the new Style have become some of the most popular in the land down under. Home reefers, local fish stores, and commercial facilities have had great success with the Illumagic product line over the years for a number of reasons. Great performance, durability, and especially strong product support from Illumagic’s distributor Dalua Australia has resulted in many successful reef tanks on the island continent.
I am often approached by companies wishing to send me product to test out – oftentimes all it takes is a few weeks of use over one of my own reef tanks to get a reasonable review of an aquarium light. In this case it was mutually decided that it would be more effective to actually come to Australia and see examples of Illumagic’s various lights over many reef tanks, in many settings, and to really ‘experience’ what these lights are capable of in a range of uses.
I have to be perfectly honest here – first of all, I only agree to work with, unbox, test and review products which I know are going to be reasonably good quality. In this regard I knew that the Illumagic LED lights would be good enough to share with my readers and viewers. My primary motivation may have been to finally get to Australia and check out the Aussie reef scene, which totally blew me away, Aussie reefers are the best, I mean that.
But in visiting so many stores, display tanks and a few commercial facilities using Illumagic lights, I came away convinced that Illumagic’s current product line places them shoulder to shoulder with the best offerings from the likes of Maxspect, Kessil, Ecotech Marine, and Aqua Illumination.
Illumagic’s LED lights have always been made of a solid aluminum housing with substantial heatsinks resulting in lights that are either entirely passively cooled, or have an accessory fan for when the lights are operated at full intensity, or in very warm environments. Furthermore, Illumagic was one of the first companies to recognize the importance of warm white LEDs for balancing out the icy blue look that comes from using so many blue LEDs, and for increasing color rendition in the aquarium.
The other hallmark of Illumagic’s engineering has been a deep commitment to replaceable LED modules – not all of their fixtures have had replaceable LED modules but most of their lights have LEDs that are user serviceable, making it easy to transform a FW light into a SW one or vice versa, as well as to upgrade a perfectly good light to the latest and greatest lighting technology.
The current Illumagic LED lineup includes the Comboray, Blaze X, Blaze Mini, and Style – however the older Blaze line is still alive and well with proven performance in the harshest environment, and we’ll come back to this light in a bit. The Comboray G2 does use interchangeable LEDs in a nice striplight form factor but for this review I really want to concentrate on the Blazes and the Style.
What is really intriguing about these three different aquarium light platforms is that they use the same cluster of LEDs, the design of which is actually pretty unique in the aquarium hobby. Many of the major LED light makers have settled on grouping their LEDs into clusters of discrete LEDs, each with their own individual lens or reflector, coupled with a slightly diffused surface to help with color blending. On the other end of the spectrum, multichip LEDs are grouped on the same surface with a common reflector, lens or both, which leads to excellent color mixing, a strong point source lighting effect and resulting shimmer lines.
Illumagic’s LED cluster falls evenly between these two paradigms – their diodes are placed on the same base, closely spaced but still separate dies. You can use these clusters as-is with a 120 degree beam angle, or in conjunction with a cluster-lens which narrows the beam angle to 75 degrees. Whichever path you choose, the Illumagic grouping of LEDs is a perfect intermediate between clusters of Radions, Razors and Hydras and the multichips of Kessil. The result is very effective color mixing, shimmer lines that are noticeable but not overpowering, and a longer fixture lifespan since the clusters are easily user-replaceable.
One thing that impressed me about the Illumagic reef color cluster is that, for a reef tank, it is nearly perfect! Virtually every LED light cluster available today includes some color ratios that I would personally change the color and/or placement of a few LEDs, but obviously this is personal preference and highly subjective. However the Illumagic LED cluster is one of the best looking at full intensity, so there’s no wasted power capacity from having some channels turned down to achieve the perfect look.
Furthermore, there’s only three channels of color control to adjust, a white channel including cool white and warm white LEDs, a blue channel with an even mix of blue and deep blue, and an ultraviolet channel with two shades of UV LEDs. On paper having only three channels seems like a drawback but in practice, it just makes it that much easier, especially for new users, to quickly tune the light to their desired spectrum.
This brings me to one of the most important features of any controllable LED Light, and that is, the actual control. Any higher end LED light needs to have great access to the light’s features, and in this day and age that means wireless control using a smartphone. Illumagic’s Blaze lights features bluetooth while the Style has wifi connectivity and they both work incredibly well. The app itself might be a little bit sparse, but again that makes it easier to find the settings users want to adjust and program, but most importantly the lights connect very quickly and reliably, both with Bluetooth or Wifi.
I find this common cluster between three different aquarium lights very attractive, as the choice to be made between the Blaze X, Blaze Mini and Style is simply one of choosing the best spread for your tank. Need a powerful striplight with a broad spread, use the Blaze X. If you’ve got a nano tank then the Blaze Mini is a no-brainer. If you want more overlap of LED clusters for an SPS tank then the Style LED is for you.
On my tour of Eastern Australia I got to see all of these light fixtures in use over a wide variety of tanks. Stores used them to light up their corals for sale, they were used on display reef tanks, as well as on nano fresh and saltwater tanks. All of the shops I spoke with had nothing but praise for the Illumagic lights with a special emphasis on how durable they have been, and the success their customers have experienced using Illumagic’s various models. But one of the most impressive thing to see was the massive deployment of Blaze S LED lights at Cairns Marine. These fixtures have been used at Australia’s biggest livestock exporter for over five years in an environment that has exposed them to extremes of heat, temperature, and a very generous dose of salt spray.
Despite this very harsh treatment, when we opened up one of the Blaze fixtures to inspect their condition the inside of the fixtures looked virtually brand new. But most importantly, the thoughtful color spectrum with balanced whites, blues and accessory LEDs really brought out the colors of the corals at Cairns Marine. This is perhaps the largest and longest running installation of so many LED lights in a commercial reef aquarium setting that I’m aware of, and only a small number of fans have had to be replaced from nearly 100 lights that are in use there. (I don’t remember exactly how many lights it was, but enough to completely light up a large fish store).
I returned from this Australian aquarium tour with a greater understanding of this isolated reefing scene, a huge respect for the very excited australian reefers, and a Blaze Mini to use myself. As I expected, the Blaze Mini has performed excellently on my own nano tank, with quiet performance, great color rendition, uninterrupted operation and it looks pretty great and discreet hanging over this simple nano reef from steel cables. The only minor quip I can say about the Blaze Mini is that I need to cycle power to the unit to let the app scan for the bluetooth connection but this works immediately every time.
By now you can guess that I have become a fan of Illumagic. I ain’t going to lie, it doesn’t hurt that my honeymoon with this lighting catalog was in a country exotic to my own. But trust me, this is one LED platform that can deliver great aquarium lighting experience, and it can stand up to some pretty tough environments. Australia is lucky to have ready access to the Illumagic line of LED lights and it’s only a matter of time until the rest of the world starts to recognize the great balance of value and performance of the Blaze and Style LEDs.
I want to thank Dalua Australia and Illumagic for inviting me to experience their lights in a very creative manner. If you have a chance to use Illumagic LED lights on your home aquarium, you won’t be disappointed by the look of your tank and the growth and colors of your corals.