Ok, this is classified as "pretty" even though it is far from it... it leads to pretty.
So I build a lighting rack out of aluminum C-channel and square tube, haven't mounted it yet because I"m trying to get a feel for what lights I want over it now ... and to spiff it up a bit. So decided to test out some lights
So there are a lot of options out there for lighting, of the more known brands (Kessil, AI, Radion) I'm not really interesting in the Kessils, I like the inexpensiveness of the AI Hydra 26HD but at that price point I could go with a Radion XF15 pro (the half sized one) and they have similar power and coverage areas, of both I'd probably want at least 4 of them (48"x36" foot print, 27" deep tank). Of the "lesser known" ones (Maxspect, GHL, Orphek) the Orphek is a bit on the pricy side but claims a single V4 would cover the tank (color me skeptical) and due to a cross brace I really would left side & right side lights which puts this out of my price range, GHL 7206 is sexy nice but definitely on the high end spectrum claims that it can cover a 36" x 24" area in which case 2 would be fine, but a tad skeptical of that coverage but I could possibly believe it (although I've seen others use more), the 7204 is coming out which is 2/3rds the light at 2/3rds the price and 4 of those over the tank would work better, IMO, however that really pushes it beyond my comfortable price range., and lastly Maxspect always intriguing the Razor-X is a nice upgrade over their old Razor and a great affordable fixture, the Recurve is a neat beast but a bit too pricey for my tastes. and lastly the Ethereal ... and if you never heard of it congrats you are in the majority, they didn't push this fixture very much and I think it may be discontinued but who knows not many places sell it, and there are even less reviews on it which is really the main turnoff of Maxspect lights in general, they don't seem to have *A* product that they put out they want to do all these different things and don't really focus on one thing, why can't they just do the Gyre pump version of their lights.
Ok enough of my thinking on this subject. At least initially I decided to reuse some of the old crap I got, and I can swap stuff out with new as needed (if it wasn't for the fact that most of these companies slap all their products with MAP maybe I could be swayed one way or another... but NOOOOOOOO they want to be fair to everyplace... *pittoey*... ok that's a different discussion ). Either way this is the reason for the aluminum frame to hold the lights, so that I can adjust them as necessary and mount accordingly, and if I need to get over the tank I can raise them high enough to do so all at once instead of one fixture at a time (although if I do 4 fixtures over the tank maybe individual ones would be fine and I spent $40 and a couple days building a useless piece of aluminum junk )
So what do I have, well I have my custom LED fixtures that I built... I want to say somewhere between Radion Gen 1 and Gen 2, it has 48 total LEDs over a 6" x 24" heatsink, whites and blues are clustered in 4 locations (think Hydra 52) and there's another line of blues and violets on top and bottom, 4 total channels. But I haven't really used them much so I think they still got life left in them. No optics either, I was well ahead of that trend before the LED makers starting ditching focusing optics for spreading optics Each pulls about 150 watts at full power, but I wouldn't run them at full power. I have 3 of these (and a bunch of other LEDs that I feel like I'll never use and was wasted money...)
Also have a some metal halide fixtures, 2 lumenarc minis (~14" wide) the square profile ones, and 2 others Lumenbright(?) octogon profile. And I do have a 10K MH lamp (250W) and a bunch of Icecap ballasts (thanks Mario @xcaret )
No par meter so next best thing, and I know the eye is really horrible at determining brightness levels, that is unless you're comparing against something else. That cheapy LED strip I've been using looked decently bright, however after this test it looks like a candle being held over the tank.
First up Lumenbright on the left, LEDs on the right (a single fixture roughly in the middle of the tank). My first thoughts are the LEDs are actually quite bright in comparison, there's a bit different look because of the heavy blues in the LEDs, but the MH is noticeably brighter I believe.
Side view of the tank, and quite impressed that the MH pretty much has 36" wide coverage without problem at all. Any Kessil fans want to still say a 360 is the equivalent of a 250W MH bulb? Yeah, maybe JUST the bulb, there's zero way a single Kessil is this bright or covers this much area.
So cons of the MH fixture, it's heavy as all sin, definitely would need to hang it from the ceiling and not the aluminum frame. Frame held, sure but there was a bit of flex to it, which to me says I would need to support it not only from 4 corners but also the middle (which is fine), also I would worry about mounting it too high due to the plastic in the middle of the tank. Also it's REALLY big (20" or so wide?) which doesn't leave much room for putting accent lighting on either side, and if I did run a MH it would be partially (6hrs max) which means the accent lighting runs the rest of the time.
Here's the lumenarc fixture which replaces the Lumenbright, the reflector is all sorts of beat up though, but it still puts out a heavy duty amount of light. Doesn't look quite as bright as the lumenbright fixture though, some of the rocks almost looked oversaturated in brightness in the earlier photo. While we may blame the camera on this the LED fixture is still common between both so it's useful as a reference
Still ample coverage and a single bulb in this fixture easily can handle 36" wide.
So this one isn't quite as bright, which may be due to the beat up nature of the reflector, but either way it isn't as wide either (14" wide), so supplemental lighting is still an option which is a big benefit. The downside is metal halides are off or on, LEDs allow you to ramp up and down which is a pretty decent selling point. Maybe when the PAR meter makes it my way I can do a quick test of output to see if MHs might just be overkill too, I do come from a generation of reefers where 100-200 PAR is blasphemy, needed to get high 500s at least
Lastly only the LED, which you can see the obvious bright spot in the middle, but it still does have a decent enough spread, obviously a single light isn't going to cut it but if I wanted to setup a system where the light goes from one side of the tank to the other (maybe about as useful as thunder storm simulations) it definitely doesn't leave other parts of the tank that dark.
Here I moved the single LED to within about 6 inches of the front of the tank, still pretty good spread. I only wish I had 4 of these to put over the tank
So overall conclusions, while I initially wanted to put metal halides over the tank I'm really leaning away from that now if anything due to the bulky nature of the MH fixtures, but also the on/off only nature of them is a bit of a turn off. I think I still have a PWM controller floating around (Storm controller), and definitely need (want) to do some major rewiring of everything, but I don't want to spend much more (any) money on these things if possible, because every $100 I spend is $100 that could be towards a Radion or Hydra or something. These should help grow corals initially, and I can test these versus the Radion Mike will lend me, then as I get the feeling to upgrade (or there's a rare sale) maybe get some other lights, and the DIY jobbers can be for a frag/QT tank or something.
500 PAR wasn't a request, just a look into the mindset of reefers in those days. Probably like the thinking that we absolutely need to run 10x the tank volume through the sump every hour we probably were a little over zealous in the "values" that our tanks need.
Like I said though, the whole point of the lighting rack system is to easy swap lights if necessary, I can start with LEDs and if corals aren't growing (or colored) like I like swap out to more intense lighting. I mean hell I had a 2x250w MH w/ 6 -54W T5s on a similar sized tank and corals grew great in that situation.
FYI: My overall favorite is still the Lumia 5.2 DIY with lens.
1) It has a large single adjustable lens, so you can tweak spread/depth.
2) Tight LED array, so no disco effect
3) Reasonably low power per device, so you can have several, for good overall coverage.
4) Good "white" color, not so blue. (my personal preference)
Yeah I'm not quite sure I want to venture to deeply into the DIY arena anymore. These fixtures were done pre-kid, and now with a 3 year old running around occupying time the pendulum of "how much is free time worth" has swung from "not worth much" to "precious commodity". I learned this as I was building my stand and went cheap with wood instead of fancy extruded aluminum which with every piece cut to size would have simply been like putting together an erector set.
Yay, 40G tank is getting covered in brown stuff! Why excited? Because natural progression that's why! I remember on tank moving day mentioning being worried that the rock I had cycling in the tanks still looked as white as when I put them in (bleached) and someone (Rolf I think?) said that happened with him as well until lights went over it. Now the 40G tank has an anemone in it, so I needed some stronger lights over it, another DIY jobber that I build this was a quick one I built back in the day very simple white channel, blue channel, not as many LEDs used the old meanwell bricks instead of dimmable LDD drivers. Would love to put one of the other lights over it and having dimming except ... I only have one controller for dimming and don't really want to put any money money into DIY fixtures, I don't mind using what I have, or getting small things (e.g. replacement fans) but nothing big, which a controller would probably be in the $60-100 range and eat into the cost of a new(er) fixture.
That said the 200G tank is still sterile white looking, that cheapy LED strip light (similar to the Marineland one) isn't bright enough to keep algae or diatoms alive I guess
Well not sure where the clubs PAR meter is, or who has it, but screw it, lights up!
Version 1.0 of lighting
Really like the overall coverage these give, 2 seems to illuminate the whole tank, side to side, front to back, now that said it is based off what my eyes perceive so I'll just wait for the PAR meter before going too crazy with corals in there
That said, used some ratching rope things to hold up the whole system, supposedly 75lbs of strength per ratchet so more than enough strength to hold it up (theoretically). We'll see if there are any corrosion issues down the line but I put the ratchets up high to so it's only a humidity thing not a salt spray thing. Decided on an A-frame type of hanging structure mostly because I only had 2 heavy duty hooks, but I felt that this way makes it much easier to get leveled over the tank
Cord management is going to be a thing down the road, ideally I'll want the power supplies (they're completely open to the air, not sealed) to be outside the fish room area because corrosion will be a thing with those if I just leave it as such. However I also want them high too (again for cords). The entire area will be enclosed and above the tank isn't going to be viewable but still like to keep things neat.
Don't want to really put corals in the tank now anyways (note: this is a huge lie!) because I'm going to be leaving town in a couple weeks and the only thing I really want to worry about now is feeding (I got autofeeders) and freshwater top off (I don't have an ATO setup yet, because I don't have freshwater reservior setup yet, but I just filled both tank's return chambers to the top, and I'm curious how many days I can go before needing to top off again. Worst case scenario though I can fill an old salt bucket with RO water and just use an aqualifter or something to periodically put water into the sump, which should buy me more than enough time.
Ok like I said in the last paragraph... big lie. First coral in the 200G tank, actually in the 40B as well. This is a pink sand dollar monti that I got from @Coral reefer way back when, and in that rubbermaid tub on the ground that I literally never did a water change on, that was over run with aiptasia, that actually killed off every piece of SPS & LPS that I put in it, this little coral just chugged right on through. In fact I didn't know if the coral was just a skeleton or not for the longest time, although being under a metal halide bulb it definitely got plenty of light. So decided this would be a great piece to "test the waters"... not that I have any worry considering where it came from, but either way I managed to chip off some pieces from the rock it was on (no way in hell any rocks were coming from the tub without being bleached) and put a few in either tank.
Strangely enough they actually look better under the blue LEDs than they did under the 10000K halide (sarcasm folks, sarcasm)
Either way, going to to LA in a couple weeks on vacation, so when I'll get back I'll hit up AC and/or Neptune to see if I can't get some more color in the tank. Don't know anywhere in LA to get cheap corals (still in the testing phase, so nothing expensive), plus driving back with kid in the car we may have to stop a few times for his (and my) sanity if it ends up taking 10hrs to get back I don't think I have high hopes on those corals living.
Bring a small cooler with you. I bought a couple of costco hot dogs and tossed them in the cooler with a chalice I picked up in Bakersfield. Try not to have any empty air space in the cooler. Good luck!
Minor update 40 breeder
Remove the really old Koralia pump, just was annoying the ever loving !@#%$ out of me when the power cycled the impeller MAY spin the correct way, or it could spin in reverse sucking water into the pump (not at the same rate it spat out though due to the impeller shape), so dug out the box o' Vortech motors & drivers I have, managed to find a wetside that worked well enough without rattling too much, and got that going on the tank on very low flow and it seems to work well enough. May spring for a new wetside though if this one acts up.
Tank has been brownin' up good such that I'm cleaning the glass daily, so decided it was skimmer time.
Vectra Omega 130 may be a bit overkill for this tank as the ratings have 40G for a "Heavy Bioload" which I think 2 clownfish a handful of mushrooms and an anemone don't qualify for. I would love to fill this thing with fish but I think it's too small to cram that many fish in it. Who knows bunch of damsels maybe since they're going to naturally be aggressive anyways. Or maybe attempt the nano-fish direction with ones that are more peaceful although I really have a problem internally paying $20+ for a fish not much bigger than my half my pinky finger (when the fish is full grown!)
Move the MP60 over to one of the black sides, and unfortunately had a couple issues first I need that sticky hanger thing for the dryside as the pump is too big and while there may be enough friction against glass, there is not enough friction against the PVC sheets I use to black out the back. A solution to this would be to cut a hole out for the pump in the PVC which I really don't want to do because I know eventually I'll move the pump as corals grow in ways I don't expect. The other solution I had was to use a thinner spacer to hold it stronger to the wetside, and that seemed to work initially, unfortunately it caused the whole PVC sheet (and dryside) to walk across the tank, currently the PVC sheet is simply wedged in between the top & bottom trim which is perfectly fine however it still can slide side to side. So if I want to use the MP60, and why the hell not I have it, I need to spring for those tabs that hold the dryside to the tank, $16 plus shipping for 3 of them... *sigh*... oh well I can reuse them I'm sure if I need to move the pump, just put some more double sided tape on them. But in the meantime got my Rossmont on there pushing 4100GPH, it's a strong stream and quiet, I was thinking of maybe putting those pumps in the tank but after getting the MP40 on the breeder, I'm tempted to do the same, just need to see if I have enough parts in the box o' Vortech parts to make it work as I can be tempted to buy new wetsides, but no way I'm buying new pumps.
Also started to see the browns appear in this tank, bright lights go on, it starts.. funny how that works. Anyways, my old ATI Bubblemaster 250 was down 1 Sicce pump, I ran it pretty well with 1 pump in the old 300G, but I didn't know if that was due to water being super dirty or if it could in fact run with a single pump (the BM200 works with a single pump), was thinking of getting a single pump for that was maybe a heftier DC badboy that I could adjust to what the skimmer needed.. but damnit if those weren't expensive. So opted for a different skimmer
Vertex Alpha 200, got it used as it is the older style. You can tell by the air silencer and how it's mounted as the newer ones are mounted similar to the Omega skimmers (see above), this also use a Bubble King skimmer (not the RD3) because they were made by Royal Exclusiv or something, not saying newer ones are bad they're just different.
In the 40 smaller fish obviously, colorful, inexpensive, no "show fish", maybe a bit of aggressiveness to them so that everyone keeps each other in check, let my kid actually pick out some fish (as long as I don't veto it)
In the 200 definitely some wrasses, but nothing concrete beyond that, some open swim fish that don't hide too much would be nice but it's been a while since I've had anything other than tangs that I don't know what fish would qualify.
If you like the look of pilotfish or trevallys, I would recommend those for open swimming and never hiding. Mine eat so much I have to feed them on one side and feed the tangs on the other side just so the tangs have a chance at getting anything. I keep looking for more at all the LFS since they school nicely but havent been able to buy more than the 3 I currently have. Had 0 aggression too! They just do their own thing eating everything