MH / LED usage in 2016

Discussion in 'Equipment' started by rygh, Jan 12, 2016.


What is the PRIMARY source of light for your tank. So ignore secondary enhancements.

  1. Metal Halide

    3 vote(s)
  2. LED

    40 vote(s)
  3. T5

    3 vote(s)
  4. Other???

    0 vote(s)
  1. rygh

    rygh Supporting Member

    I thought LEDs were the "in thing" these days.
    Yet I have noticed a fair number of people giving up on LED and going back to MH.
    And MH + T5 is still for sale all over the place.

    So I thought it might be a fun to create a thread on who is using what.
  2. sfsuphysics

    sfsuphysics Supporting Member

    I'm thinking of maybe making a move make to halide, then maybe LEDs as the secondary source, I could put halides in a good reflector and get a lot of light coverage over a large area... actually maybe need to think about borrowing the clubs PAR meter again just to do some testing.
  3. bee505

    bee505 Guest

    Tried all 3. I have been using T5 for over 5 years now, I am still using T5. If $ wasn't the problem, I would switch back to MH/T5 in a heart beat.
  4. rygh

    rygh Supporting Member

    I am curious about the cost comment. I thought MH/T5 was roughly the same cost as T5 only.
  5. zeroinverse

    zeroinverse Guest

    Cost wise, I think MH add up due to the additional need for fan for evaporative cooling or running chiller. Both add up.

    Also with T5, you can turn off different bulbs to get dawn/dusk effects. This also saves you a bit of power.
  6. euod

    euod Supporting Member

    When I am seriously using lights, I use MH :)
  7. bee505

    bee505 Guest

    I should have been a bit more specific. On my 36" tank, my MH/T5 light fixture has 2x150w MH plus 4x39w T5. My T5 only fixture had 6x39w T5. I agree, not a fair comparison.
  8. Enderturtle

    Enderturtle Volunteer

    I definitely think most of the people switching from LED to MH/T5 are looking to Maximize Acropora Growth/Coloration. I know a few oddballs using T5s to grow zoas but most of us zoa folks are using LEDs.

    Some Store Information and their Light Set Ups and Approximate Coral Selection Percentages
    -Correct me if I'm Wrong. I remember glancing at their lights but wasn't fully examining them.

    Neptune Aquatics
    Acropora Section his expensive section and 10/20$ section lit by Metal Halides.
    Rest of the store lit by LEDs Kessil A360s
    -75% of the Store Selection are LPS/Softies
    -25% of the Store Selection are Acropora

    Diablo Corals
    Acropora Section lit by Metal Halides.
    I think he might also be using some sort of T5 combo? Haven't been there in a while.
    Rest of the store lit by LEDs Kessils.
    -75% of the Store Selection are LPS/Softies
    -25% of the Store Selection are Acropora

    California Reef Co.
    Acropora Frag Tanks lit by T5's (1 is lit by LEDs).
    Rest of store lit by LEDs (Ecotech XR30 Radions)
    -70% of the Store Selection are LPS/Softies
    -30% of the Store Selection are Acropora
    -Original Plans were (50% Acro and 50% LPS/Softies)

    Aquatic Collection
    Acropora Tank lit by Metal Halides.
    Rest of the store lit by LEDs AI Lights.
    -75% of the Store Selection are LPS/Softies
    -25% of the Store Selection are Acropora

    Battle Corals
    Focuses primarily on Acropora, but they grow their acros under separate tanks each focusing on LEDs or T5s or Metal Halides.

    If and when I set up an acropora tank....I think I'd go with LEDs Radions. I really can't see myself wanting to pay for Bulbs and replacing the bulbs yearly, too annoying for me. I'm not looking for tremendous growth anyways. If I was in the business of selling acropora out of my house, I would be using T-5s/MH.

    The supposed extra growth is not worth the trade off for me to switch to T5s/MH considering the extra energy usage, bulb replacement requirement, extra heat emission, and larger/heavier fixture.
    Last edited: Jan 13, 2016
    wpeterson likes this.
  9. Tskiller

    Tskiller Guest

    I'm using an LED system by Reef Radiance but I'm considering switching over to a hybrid solution by nanobox. Their quad T5+LED is really tempting.

    Don't get me wrong my RR light is fantastic, super bright, and I like the selection of LEDs they made, but it still has the same drawbacks that most LEDs do. The spectrum from each individual kind of LED is very narrow, and you get shading.

    If I do switch to a hybrid option, its mostly to prevent shading more than anything.
  10. zeroinverse

    zeroinverse Guest

    @Enderturtle : I feel that the stores are not really in the business of maintaining long-term growth. They just need the corals to look nice enough in the next 2 weeks before they are sold (or at least maintain enough color to be sold).

    I feel that is generally very different from hobbyist who have to buy corals home and maintain them for the next year.
  11. Enderturtle

    Enderturtle Volunteer

    Coral Shops Have two Approaches for Selling Corals
    1. Frag up Corals for Immediate Sale (Chop Shop Method)
    2. Grow-out Corals and Release Frags for Sale. (Grow-out Method)
    Some of these stores only use the Chop Shop Method.
    Some of these stores use both methods.

    It really depends on the store. I can tell you Neptune Aquatics and California Reef Co use both methods.

    However it is true that the Chop-Shop method is most commonly used. Since stores usually don't grow corals fast enough to sustain their business on a full time scale.

    It is in their best interest to grow-out their own corals only if it is profitable. It's also a nice relief from paying for wild corals, which is good too.

    The 500$ Flame Tip Anemones from Coral Collection are 100% Aquacultured. They're grown from a tank at someones house and brought into the store. He goes in with a scapels and cuts all his nems causing them to split. Why does he continue to grow them out instead of selling them all wholesale for a quick buck? Because over the long term, it is more profitable to grow them out. But only because it's profitable.
    Last edited: Jan 13, 2016
    wpeterson likes this.
  12. zeroinverse

    zeroinverse Guest

    Totally agreed. I get the sense that the "growout" method for coral shops is from local growers that bring them in.
  13. rygh

    rygh Supporting Member

    The shading is really only an issue if you use a couple of very high power LEDs. Like Kessil.
    If you use the smaller LED diodes, there are more, and they are spread out, and shading is not an issue.
    Although if they are not color-clustered, you get some funky color effects.
    Of course, you lose the shimmer. Some people like that, some don't.

    Narrow spectrum band is definitely an issue.
    I wish they had phosphor based royal blue like they do for whites.
  14. wpeterson

    wpeterson Webmaster

    My own experience and what I've read implies that you can grow anything under LEDs as long as they are high quality LEDs (Ecotech, Kessil, AI, etc).

    I do notice that tanks with MH lighting have very colorful SPS and that my SPS haven't colored up as nicely as I would like. That may be because of the MH lighting or it may be a corellation that hobbyists who care enough and have the budget for the best gear take better care of their SPS all around. I've seen beautiful SPS under LEDs as well.

    LEDs get a bad reputation due to the variance in quality. MH setups are fairly standard even without the premium bulbs, while LED quality of lighting and spectrum varies quite dramatically - especially on the ebay/DIY/shadier end of the market. The first LED light panel I bought was over-priced and couldn't grow anything but algae - I did more research and bought some used Kessils, but I can see how other folks would rage-quit the hobby/technology after that experience.

    However, the real benefit of LEDs over MH for me is the energy efficiency, reliability, and lack of heat produced. It's a much cheaper/simpler tank without a chiller or active cooling, especially in CA where it gets so hot in the summer. I love not having to buy/change bulbs and make judgments about when they're going bad and what's up with the spectrum.

    In Boston, one of the big aqua-culture shops (5000 gallons of frag tanks) runs LEDs spring through fall and then MH in the winter, because his space is the basement of his house and the MH heats almost the whole house in the winter.
  15. rygh

    rygh Supporting Member

    I tend to think that MH is easier for the corals to adapt to as well.
    It seems very easy to fry corals under LEDs.
    I had to keep turning mine way down.
    The narrow spectrum may be confusing them or the me. Not really sure.

    Funny thing on coloration though:
    I tend to agree that colors are a bit better under MH.
    But on a real reef, under natural sunlight, you don't get those colors either.
  16. sfsuphysics

    sfsuphysics Supporting Member

    I'm curious about the real world impact of energy. Granted there are so many factors that can come into play, what brand of halide bulb, what brand of LED, that 3 watt red LED still uses the same power as that 3 watt white LED but no way does the red one help corals grow. For instance I don't buy for one instance that a Kessil 350 replaces a 250W MH unless you have some janky halide setup. But if we can break it down to a watt v. watt comparison, we can maybe debunk the heat myth too of MH setups. I for one never ran a chiller or fans with MH bulbs, did I notice an increase in temperature? Sure, but nothing that was too outrageous.

    Can't really take what a store does as what I should do for reasons mentioned above, plus there's a lot less maintenance with LED fixtures since the store doesn't have to remember to swap out, plus a store isn't paying the same price as you or I are paying for the fixtures, some might even get kickbacks from the manufacturers to show off their product.

    Plus some of us old timers have so much older equipment that doing a dollar for dollar comparison is not really fair, I have more than enough reflectors/ballasts for MH setups, and the cost to me is next to zero (bulbs are the only cost), now for someone just getting in, then yeah it's a lot easier to justify spending $400 for a Kessil, versus whatever the cost for MH setup is, also it's a LOT easier (and cheaper) to go the DIY with MH and save a ton of money over buying a premade fixture (which used to be expensive, can't find too many for sale though :D).

    LEDs definitely have the customization factor to them, whether it's color output, or brightness, you're not stuck with one color/output like you are with MH.
  17. rygh

    rygh Supporting Member

    Lots of good questions!

    Power efficiency thoughts:
    Metal halide is around 100 Lumens/Watt, and seems to be staying there.
    LEDs keep getting better, and a cool white Cree has broken the 300 Lumens/Watt number already.
    So LED is crudely 3X the efficiency, and increasing the lead.
    However, there are tons of variables as you point out. And Lumens != PAR.
    So what is the real world number? A good question.


    Opinions on heat myth:
    The MH bulbs generate a lot of heat. Being less efficient in Lumens/Watt, that lost efficiency goes out as heat.
    But key: That heat is generated at the bulb, not in the tank.
    The lumens into the tank are roughly the same, so tank by itself sees no difference because of the light itself.
    However, that heat has to go somewhere.
    Some will be radiated down regardless as infrared, somewhat heating the tank.
    If your pendants are above the tank and well ventilated, most heat will dissapate into the room.
    But if you have a fairly closed top, a lot of it will heat the air immediately above the tank.
    That will then indirectly heat the tank.
    So basically: Heating the tank depends on overall setup, not purely using MH lights.


    If you compare DIY-MH you really have to compare with DIY-LED, not some fancy Kessil.
    But on the used market, agree, MH is far cheaper. In fact, borderline free since so many people switch.
  18. Flagg37

    Flagg37 Officer at large

    I like the color and intensity control of LED. I can simulate sunrise/sunset and moon phases.
  19. sfsuphysics

    sfsuphysics Supporting Member

    Well the lumen/watt thing is a bit iffy, even if we accept lumen as an acceptable unit, we're talking some lab setup design to get that 300lumen/watt, probably driving the most efficient current (which is quite a bit less than what we do with LEDs as we very often double almost tripling that current), and what sort of cooling setup are they using? I've seen Intel processors overclocked to 7Ghz, but they were cooled with liquid nitrogen! :D

    Now accepting PAR as metric it should be somewhat easy to check how the efficiency really stands out, of course which bulb you choose on the MH side will make a world of difference too. Simply take measurements (underwater) at a particular depth over an area until the amount of light drops to negligible amounts, then simply come how much power used with a kill-a-watt meter or something and just call it a day. I tried doing something like this the last time I borrowed the club's PAR meter but unfortunately the rocks got in the way and then I just went with the "awww screw it, this is too much work" result :D

    As to the heat myth, I was referring to the need to have chillers and/or fans to cool your tank. Obviously this depends greatly on each setup, how hot is your house, are you using 1200 watts of halides over a 100g tank? etc. I'm fully aware that a metal halide heat source essentially is acting like one of those satellite dish looking electric heaters you see in CostCo, so yeah more energy will be put into the tank. HOWEVER, how much less are your heaters turning on as a result? So going back to the original question that might be fair to take other power that's not used by your tank as a nod towards the halide side of things as far as "efficiency". Now if you need a chiller that runs whenever the lights are on then sure all that goes out the window. But like I said, never used a chiller in my life, and the first decade or so of reef keeping used halides :D

    The reason I mentioned DIY is because inside a canopy (if you have one) there's virtually no difference in terms of quality, and in many cases you can buy an actual better reflector with a MH setup (lumenarc type reflectors). And with a garage full of junk I can throw together a MH fixture without any additional cost, yet I can't throw together a DIY LED fixture for no cost because I'd need to buy all the parts.

    There are two knocks against LEDs I see though, first because the equipment is evolving so fast it kind of sucks to pay for equipment and have a better version a year or two later at the same cost, how many versions of the Radion came out? AI Vega/sol/Hydra? Kessil A150/350-160/360/w/e... Second, what's the life span? I mean we all hear numbers of 100000 hours (or whatever) now are those lab guestimations? How much does the light drop? I know I've let MH bulbs go too long because "hey it's making light and looks the same brightness to me!" :D. And what happens if it does go faulty? On the hook for another $400 kessil? $800 Radion? did it pay itself off before that happened? Where as the modular nature of a MH makes it bit easier to handle, with LEDs you really are investing in your tank, now LED design has come light years since one of the original PFO Solaris fixtures which seemed to have LEDs dying all the time, but still is something to be mindful of.

    Don't get me wrong, I absolutely LOVE LEDs, their ability to be customized and controlled is a very VERY powerful PRO that very often outweighs most cons. My point of arguing now... other than me loving a good debate... is that I don't think metal halides are quite a dead fish yet. That said, after just a trying to do a bit of research before I posted, they do seem to be going the way of the dodo as far as fixtures go, how much longer with the replacement bulbs stick around?
    Franko likes this.
  20. aqua-nut

    aqua-nut Supporting Member

    I choose LED for one main reason. HEAT! My house has no AC. I live in Santa Rosa. It can get hot in SR!

    I had a tank with MH. The whole house got hot! The tank got hot! With LEDs that's not a problem and I don't have to get AC for the house and a chiller for the tank.

    I am thinking about adding T5 to deal with the shading problems. They are not exactly cool lights so I might have to wait for global cooling! :)
    wpeterson likes this.

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