Why Aquaray LED Light Fixtures, Review?

Revised June 22, 2016

Why Aquaray LED Light Fixtures, Review?

As readers already know, I clearly have a bias toward the TMC-AAP Aquaray LED lights.

For a little background, most of my aquarium service customer contract with me AFTER purchasing their equipment elsewhere, so I get to use many different products from many different manufacturers. This pattern has been prevalent since I started in about 1986, at first working for another.
In the end, some products are so bad that I cannot do my job well and I have to tell the service customer that they will need to change this product or I cannot continue or even start a new contract.

Why Aquaray LED Light Fixtures, Review, by TMC AAPWhen it comes to lighting, I probably have at least some experience now with about 70% of the popular LED brands now available. Some others I have not but I have listened to others I respect and have applied common sense and have not recommended those 30% I have yet to use.

Nonetheless, most of the lights that I do have at least some experience with work well and these lights do the job they were intended for such as keeping a reef, planted or just plain fish tank. A couple of exceptions include the Marineland Double Bright, Aquatop, and a few others.
So my experience is not that there are not many capable LED lights, as the majority are more than capable!!

My practical experience as well as common sense has eventually brought me to my favorite when it has come to LED lighting.
This without a doubt is the Aquaray line of LED lights, so let me list off why I feel this way. Readers may not always agree, nonetheless, much of these reasons I list are based on factual reasons, not just simple subjective opinions.

  1. The highest water-resistant rating of any major LED (IP67).
    This means your electronic lighting device that is placed in a wet aquatic environment has a chance of lasting more than a couple years.
    From Aquarium LED Lights, Lighting:
    “LED fixtures are NOT aquarium lights in the traditional sense, even the emitters are not a “bulb” as many people think. They are computer chips making micro-explosions, emitting photons in frequencies of waves. Some of these waves, we know as light.”
  2. The longest and best warranty of 5 years for the fixture. This warranty is also for full replacement, not what can be a weeks long repair, nor are there exceptions as with many others requiring a certain percentage of emitters be out before a warranty can be utilized.
  3. Highest output light energy per input energy, in other words the electrical input required to produce both the quantity and quality of light needed to keep reef or planted aquariums in particular.
  4. Similar to the above, the highest PUR using patented designs and licensed emitters that provide optimum light energy with less need to mix emitters to achieve this.
    The result is a light that has an optimal man-made light energy, not a CRI that might look better or brighter to the user.

    Ref: PUR, PAS, PAR in Aquarium Reef/Planted Lighting

  5. Most options for light spread and more; Large and small tiles, strips, patented mounting system also optionally available.
  6. History; the Aquaray line of aquarium LED lights has been around since 2007 and has locked in some of the best patent designs, licensing agreements. Many of the new fixture while quite nice still has to operate around these designs which includes using multiple emitters to achieve what Aquaray can do with one or a few due to patent and licensing rights. Those who in 2015 & beyond who have never heard of this brand show that they have had their head up their a## in some forum that clearly spews out the same garbage over and over.
    Part of this reason too in my opinion, is many of these persons live on the Internet where the same information is passed back and forth, so they never see what the down and dirty professionals are using.
    The FACTS are the Aquaray line has always been marketed to the professionals, not forum sponsorships, so this results in a brand that is well known among many in professional circles and many brick & mortar retailers, but less well known among forum readers [with a few exceptions]

The above reasons are quite self explanatory and frankly hard to argue with.

In the end, while even the better economy brands such as Finnex or Fluval can keep your planted aquarium going nicely, any up-front savings is lost quickly as per my list of reasons and I have already witnessed early failures of these lights, in particular the Finnex.
When one of the brands I “inherit” with customer who purchased their aquarium set up elsewhere go belly up, this is often when I replace the light with an Aquaray.
I have already replaced lights for customers for total failures. Often moisture damage is a reason, although failed fans have killed a few LED fixtures too.

Another issue I have found is less than optimal emitter combinations, both for marine and freshwater applications.

An example is a freshwater BML LED strip fixture with three blue emitters. The amount of blue has a higher tendency to grow more algae.
This is nothing new either as both I and the person I purchased my aquarium service company from have used actinic blue fluorescent lights in combinations over the years and this almost always resulted more algae growth versus the use of a good pure 6500K trichromatic or Triton lamp.
Changing out to a pure noontime tropical sun 6500k emitter LED such as the Grobeam improved the algae issue. More subjectively I think the more natural daylight color looks better too.

Ditto some of use of amber emitters to make up desired light kelvin colors. This gets close to optimal light wavelengths for cyanobacteria, something warm white fluorescent lamps years back also had more issues with. In the end, changing lights improved cyanobacteria issues too.

Below are a couple of examples to make my point. Please note these are generic aquariums as my contracts protect privacy of my customers aquariums which I cannot use publicly.

This first pic is from a BML showing the too high blue color for most planted aquariums.
Please note that BML is now out of business as per aquarium LEDs. Be wary if purchasing one of these lights used, as they have issues due to heat causing silicone to separate from the fixture since these fixture often produce to much excess heat.
Build My LED Freshwater Light with blue tint

This pic shows GroBeam 600 strips over an aquarium and the more natural color
GroBeam LED lights with more natural daylight color

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AquaRay Aquarium LED; Reef Central

Reef Central is a popular forum with many marine fish keepers.
As readers of my “Aquarium Opinions” posts will notice that I also call this forum out for a lot of incorrect information, such as in my last post for making ludicrous statements that certain UV Sterilizers did not even exist that do IN FACT exist as well as ludicrous statements about UV Sterilizer customer service.

Since TMC and their AquaRay lighting seems to be one of their favorite kicking boys, likely due to the fact they do not pay the big bucks in sponsorships as other LED manufacturers who spend much more on marketing and hype, I will be standing in for their defense.
In this post, I will look at several points made by Reef Central members and comment on them.
I will note that some very well thought out comments were also made in Reef Central threads

I shall also note that as per my Home Page mission statement, I am simply a professional aquarium service and design person, and as well, do not link to any sellers of said equipment.
I simply do not like to see bullsh## information being put forth as fact and yes my observations has shown the TMC AquaRay (as well as UV Sterilizers to be among the best, if not THE BEST)

First here is my outline as to while I support the LEDs I do in my aquarium service business:
Why Aquaray LED Light Fixtures, Review?

SO HERE WE GO:

  1. COMMENT:
    By Reef Central member; “If there is not a Cree data sheet that shows these magic emitters nor a publicly available patent then these claims are not true. 10 LED fixture with no controls for $290? No thanks.”
    Ref:
    http://www.reefcentral.com/forums/showthread.php?t=2181083

    MY RESPONSE:
    An unfortunately typical argument attacking facts using hyperbole.
    No dude, there are no magic emitters. Only emitters that AquaRay has paid to Cree and others for specific licensing, nothing magic about this and quite a regular practice in the manufacturing industry too.

    As well, the facts/science of PUR are applied in selection of emitters used, not what just looks good such as green emitters.
    In fact, a CBS news report about indoor farms backed up the facts that PUR is what is important and that there is nothing magical about using specific PUR emitters rather that hitting the whole PAR spectrum as most Aquarium LEDs market their lights to [such as Ocean Revive, EcoTech, etc.] with the help of either misinformed, clueless, or maybe even deceptive graphs that only measure PAR and thus give higher ratings to lights that put out high PAR, but with much of it in spectrums that might look good to us, but is useless for plant or symbiotic zooxanthellae required by corals.
    This farm used ONLY the spectrums required for growth, in other words PUR which means “photosynthetically useful radiation”. this in the end wastes much less electricity and requires a lower measurable PAR do do the job over lights employing green, yellow, & cool white emitters.

    These are both observable facts that such garbage posts like this one at Reef Central ignore.

    Aquarium LED PAR, Green emitter Zero PUR

    References:
    #Cree Licensing Programs
    #LED Aquarium Lights, Lighting; How they work
    #PUR vs PAR in Aquarium Lighting (LED)
    #CBS News; Vertical Farms

  2. COMMENT:
    By Reef Central member; “I still cringe any time anyone uses the term PUR in marketing lights. The bottom line ia we have seen beautiful tanks running LED fixtures such as AI, Ecotech, Kessil, Maxspect, ect… They have proven that they can continue to produce great results over the years. The EcoRay products have been out for years yet there are very few if any tanks out there using them much less showing off their success.”

    Another well thought out comment answered this:
    By Reef Central member; “They’re a household name in Europe. As far as I know, there’s only 1 distributor here in the states.

    PUR is a completely appropriate topic though when it comes to lights. It’s still another measurement that means something. It’s not just a fancy word like AI, Radion, Kessil, Maxspect would like you to believe.
    You might think PUR is unnecessary or the brand isn’t well known, I see the opposite of this.

    Why does nobody use the balling lite system, or even the Triton method? I don’t see a lot on the Triton method, that doesn’t mean it’s irrelevant. That’s why I enjoy my time on the European forums more than the US forums. Any way you slice it, the Europeans and other countries have been keeping fish much longer than the United States folks. I surely won’t dismiss anyones methods etc, but I think the bottom line is they have more participation in the fishkeeping hobby. (by several hundreds years at least)

    Over in the European forums you see these crazy tanks running for years with no water changes yet doing just fine supplementing additives.
    In the USA, people say additives are the devil and I see the majority of people asking how to keep some of the basic chemistry in check.

    I won’t make any assumptions on who’s right, but I see a lot of bickering on the US forums as compared to legitimate progress between multiple people in the Euro forums. It’s definitely something to think about.”
    From:
    http://reefcentral.com/forums/showthread.php?t=2391677

    RESPONSE:
    As this member at Reef Central stated, PUR IS IMPORTANT, and despite awesome marketing by AI & Ecotech along with their minions, PUR is necessary

    Again I reference this article:
    #PUR vs PAR in Aquarium Lighting (LED)

    I will also point out just how much time and effort goes into marketing EcoTech here at Reef Central alone.
    Look at proof of just how active the “EcoTech” sponsor is in “Reef Central”
    Reference:
    http://www.reefcentral.com/forums/showthread.php?t=2428081

    4798 as of this blog post.
    This is an incredible number as I know a friend who sponsors a forum and has been very active since 2006 in this forum visiting it every day and answering question after question and he is at about 6800 post, so for these people to hit these kinds of number so quickly shows a lot of where their marketing is and why they are so well known to member of Reef Central.

    This certainly does not prove the EcoTech is inferior [or better], but certainly shows that marketing is their main strategy of selling this product

  3. COMMENT:
    By Reef Central member; “I’m looking into getting some Aquaray Aquabeam 2000 & 1500. Underdogs with less marketing are more compelling to me.”
    From:
    http://reefcentral.com/forums/showthread.php?t=2391677

    RESPONSE:
    I agree as to less hype and marketing tells me where their emphasis is.

    In truth, as another honest Reef Central member noted, the AquaRay brand is well known in Europe where they are often more advanced and are not driven so much by marketing.
    If one has been into automobiles for some time as I have, all I have to think about is the Pontiac Aztec that was heavily marketed. Does this make it a better vehicle than a Mercedes Benz that I do not see as much advertising for?

    While my analogy is certainly flawed, my point is marketing costs money that could be going into product build.
    Why for instance do EcoTech Radions need fans?
    The response is so simple and is easily answered by Middle School science in that this excess heat that requires fans equals energy that is not going into light energy!!

  4. COMMENT:
    By Reef Central member; “I’ve got the 2000’s on a 75 gallon.
    I have them 1″ above the water, in the water just under surface is 1100-1200 par, about 12″ under the surface they give off 500-600 par, at the sand (around 17″ under) they give about 100-150 par.

    On a side note, my firestorm monti grows like a weed under these compared to miniscule growth under a 150w MH. (ya, it surprised me)

    They’re well worth it for cost savings, PWM makes the difference. But their controller is as generic as an outlet timer. (you can only do ramp on/off and levels and thunderstorm mode)

    I will not go into details as to scientific evidence, that is often very basic, that is often ignored in so many forum articles about Aquarium LED lighting, rather I will cite further reading references.”

    From:
    http://reefcentral.com/forums/showthread.php?t=2391677

    MY RESPONSE:
    This should come as no surprise to anyone who has pulled their head out of their a## and looked past Reef Central, checked out the more science based information online, and cracked open a Middle School level science book

  5. COMMENT:
    By Reef Central member; “Any company that creates a comparison chart for marketing purposes and use “poor warranty” under cons for Kessil and Ecotech Radion is selling snake oil. Sorry but that is just ridiculous and couldn’t be further from the truth. At least for US based customers. Both Ecotech and Kessil have some of the best support in the industry and back their warranties like no other. Further that, TMC doesn’t even offer contact info on their US website so even with their 5 year warranty, who is one supposed to contact? TMC/Tropical Marine Centre makes decent products but they are based in the UK. I used their commercial UV filters for many years before switching to AquaUV.

    That said, unless you are in Europe, forget about support. Quality Marine is said to be a wholesaler and doesn’t provide end user support so god forbid you have an issue, you are going to be having a good time getting decent support let alone warranty service.

    As for their light output. The truth is in the PAR numbers and from what I can see, these are better suited as Nano lights. “

    From:
    http://reefcentral.com/forums/showthread.php?t=2391677

    MY RESPONSE:
    I have already dealt with this persons rather rude comments that make no sense in a post about UV Sterilizers.
    This guy made up information in the UV thread and now has the gall to make up more facts as he sees them:

    My response from:
    https://aquariumopinions.com/2014/11/05/aqua-ultraviolet-versus-tmc-uv-sterilizers-reef-central/

    Sorry dude, TMC support is superior just because it is retailer based.
    Let me ask readers what would rather have as a return policy using a laptop computer as an example:
    You have a choice between two laptops of similar value, with one it can be brought back to the store for an exchange or parts replacement, or the other you have to send away to the manufacturer and wait several weeks to get your laptop back?
    I think most would take the first quicker option; sorry dude!

    I would add to this previous analogy that if you bought your automobile in Los Angeles, would you rather send it to where it was put together or the local dealership you purchased at?
    Again this guys logic is extremely flawed.
    ion.
    It is an outright lie that you will not get warranty service from TMC, as I already noted it is done through the dealers including the largest North American seller, who I will not mention since the policy of this blog is to not plug retailers or their website. Turn around is within one business day and includes a new fixture. I know that just in 2014 I had a fixture have one emitter out and I got a newer updated fixture to replace it immediately, no sending in for repairs.

    How is a warranty that is much shorter snake oil, whose Kool Aid has he been drinking? This is the kind of Kool Aid logic I would expect from Putins or Obamas, NOT what should be a fact driven responsible aquarium forum!!

    This high post count Reef Central character loves to make up information or downright lies as he goes along whether it be UV Sterilizers or Reef Lighting, and he is just one good reason Reef Central has little credibility for good information.

    He still clearly does not get that a light using a higher percentage of green emitters is WASTING energy input as light energy that is USELESS to photosynthetic life, while still making great PAR numbers.

    He needs to check out the CBS news story where only the essential PUR lighting spikes have been proven to be all that is needed for photosynthetic life.
    He also clearly does not understand the simple fact that energy wasted as heat is energy NOT going to lighting.

    Lastly, what this person seems to not grasp is no one I know that is reputable is saying the EcoTech or Kessil does not keep reef life, ONLY that it takes less input wattage for an AquaRay to do the same job.

    Am I or others saying that a 30 watt AquaRay Reef White NP 2000 [with a PAR 380 uEinsteins/sec/m2 @15 inches] has a higher useful light output than a 90 watt Kessil?
    NO, but 30 watts of this premium AquaRay LED is likely equal to the output of 50-60 watts of a Kessil or EcoTech

  6. COMMENT:
    By Reef Central member; “Another measurement? How can you say that. Every brand you just mentioned produces more PUR than the Aquaray. And the reason I can say that is because my measurement is as accurate as anyone else’s regarding PUR. All the fixtures you mentioned produce more than enough PAR for photosynthesis of our animals. The only difference is that there are several examples out there with long term results using those other fixtures. Show us the results of those using the Aquaray. I want to see before and after shots with the Aquaray. Maybe a year or so of progress. Not just pics of some tank that pulled off the MH or T5, put up the Aquaray and took photos.”

    From:
    http://reefcentral.com/forums/showthread.php?t=2391677

    MY RESPONSE:
    REALLY? When they use green, amber, or cool white emitters?
    Does he really understand PUR???
    As for PAR, watt per watt, the useful PUR is higher with an AquaRay!

    What this guy misses is the AquaRay has been around longer than these others, they have simply not marketed to gullible aquarium forums!
    There are many places using the AquaRay for more than just Nano Applications, such as the “Oceanography Centre in London” and my NON nano reef tank clients.

    Below is a reef aquarium I was given permission to share utilizing ONLY AquaRay NP 1500 & 2000 tiles that has been running over a year with AquaRay from the beginning .

    Acropora Reef Aquarium running AquaRay AquaBeam LED Lights, Lighting

  7. COMMENT:
    By Reef Central member (the same character that makes up bs all over the place about uv sterilizers and LED lights); “FWIW, that Fish-as-pets site link you posted happens to be owned by the distributor American Aquarium Products. That is marketing fluff being promoted by the distributor. Certainly not an objective comparison. “

    I see in this thread that they went after the author of the Fish as Pets article comparing the EcoTech to an AquaRay cited by another member who dared to mess with the RC Reef Police, YET, there was nothing mysterious about who this author is.
    WHAT!?
    The author clearly says who he is at the end and CLEARLY explains his reasons in scientific terms why he went with the AquaRay, why should he not sell this brand. Further investigation of the author of this article by reading “Business Bio”, it is clear he has been at this for 4 decades with a lot of time, research, 1000s of hours of hands on experience, and effort put forth.
    Furthermore, this is ludicrous reasoning!! Should someone whose research leads him to believe that an Apple lap top is better than a Windows not then recommend the Apple? Does this discredit him or her? Of course not!!!

    Moreover, considering the authors time in the hobby and business which I easily found with remedial “detective” work, this dude’s comments are rather disrespectful, but hell, that is the generation we live in where insulting others is the norm.

  8. COMMENT:
    By Reef Central member; “Shilling is still shilling, no matter how you wish to spin it. Shilling gets you removed from this forum, and you brought that on yourself so when you continue to badmouth RC on your blogs, remember you are the one who chose to ignore the rules. It is as simple as that. You will not be missed and this thread will remain for all to see in perpetuity. You will be your own worse enemy. “

    From:
    http://reefcentral.com/forums/showthread.php?t=2391677

    In my 1/15/15 revision to this post, I find this personal attack rather interesting.
    First this dude does not even know the definition of a shill

    Here is is for those who do not:
    “A shill, also called a plant or a stooge, is a person who publicly helps a person or organization without disclosing that they have a close relationship with the person or organization.

    “Shill” typically refers to someone who purposely gives onlookers the impression that they are an enthusiastic independent customer of a seller (or marketer of ideas) for whom they are secretly working”

    Reference:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shill

    I do not think this person person fits this definition unless they have had one too many liberal Kool Aids.
    Never once did this person attempt to sell a product or pose as a customer that I can see, only defend lies put forth as facts!

    More importantly, I could NOT find attacks on RC by this person that everyone seems to decided to dishonestly pile on, either here or any any blogs.

  9. What it comes down to, is Reef Central loses any credibility with its inability to moderate, as the thread noted is not a debate as one RC member would have you believe, it is about spreading lies as facts, making those who disagree with the company line that AquaRays are junk to feel two inches tall, and basically talking out of one’s ass with personal attacks and name calling rather than the facts.

    In the end, the best thing RC can do is leave this thread up as it shows the nastiness of many who reside on this forum.
    I am sure some forum lurkers will agree with this dishonest member who makes up definitions on the fly, but frankly such persons with bully attitudes are not the type of person any honest person would want to deal with, unless your name is maybe Vladimir Putin.
    I think honest/moral persons will see how rude persons are at RC and not believe a word they say.

    My advice to person attacked here and the other honest RC member is the same I give to my service customers; avoid this forum like the plague.

    Further Resources:
    #PUR vs PAR in Aquarium Lighting (LED); Fresh & Saltwater (Reef)
    #LED Aquarium Lights, Lighting; How they work, DIY
    #St. Marys Marine Biology LED Experiments
    #This shallow reef tank makes up in vibrant life what it lacks in height
    #EcoTech Radion Versus TMC Aqua Ray HO LED Aquarium Lights

    Gregg – 2015

AquaBeam Ultima 1500 NP; Review Correction

AquaBeam, AquaRay Ocean Blue NP Ultima 1500Revised 7/29/14

While I generally find “Reef Builders” aquarium lighting reviews educational or at least somewhat helpful, they unfortunately really blew it with this one, Although after reading their curiously inaccurate “LED showdown“, I should not be surprised either;

http://reefbuilders.com/2013/01/23/aquabeam-ultima-1500-np-strikes-modern-ratio-blues-whites/

The author seems to show certain biases that get in the way of the truths about this product, which I personally have found to be the BEST LED fixture I have used to date.

However before I come off and seem to attack the author, which would be wrong, let me address the points he makes and the errors there in.

Quote:
“The Ultima 1500 NP LED tile includes Cree’s latest and greatest XT-E chips with 6 diodes spread across four cool white (which TMC calls ‘Ocean White’) and two royal blue (which TMC calls ‘Fiji Blue’) But perhaps the most notable addition to the AquaBeam Ultima 1500 NP is the use of the very well received Osram Oslon Deep Blue LEDs which TMC also has a made-up name for – “Nature Perfect”.”

CORRECTIONS:

*First TMC has patent rights with Cree and whether or not TMC added this name of “Ocean White”, I cannot say, but what I do know is this is NOT a cool white emitter. In fact it is not from the same emitter bins since TMC has patent rights to specific tweaks if you will with emitter bins such as the XT-E used here.
This is nothing new, as companies that hold patents have done this for eons.

*He is also incorrect as per the Royal Blue, as TMC has been using a Royal Blue emitter for a few years, while the Fiji Blue is different with a lower nanometer range and lower peak nanometer of 450nm, unlike the royal blue at 465.
This is well published, so I am not sure how he can make such a statement

*Finally, the “Nature Perfect” Osram Oslon emitter is the name simply given by this new specifically reef developed emitter.
It is NOT even a deep blue emitter rather a full spectrum blue developed specifically for reef aquariums.

Here is the spectrum, DOES THIS LOOK LIKE A DEEP BLUE TO YOU??
Osram Olson PUR Full Spectrogram, not deep blue

SUMMARY

Hopefully reef keepers looking for one of the best LEDs on the market, especially when price is considered will look at the facts first, as this clearly is one of the best, if not THE best LED fixtures available as of 2013.

Tragically, when it comes to Aquarium LED Lighting, much of what is passed around as facts nowadays is anything but.
As well many companies such as Reef Central are sponsored (bribed if you will), yet will attack me or others on a personal level when facts are presented stating my recommendations do not count as I or others might have a bias, which the obvious response is YES!

However, these others who actually promote inferior LEDs at least when it comes to energy consumed per PUR light output such as the EcoTech clearly have a bias, and one based on promoting their sponsors.

So in the end, whether you take my word or others in my profession whose careers and livelyhood is based on using what truly works or not, I certainly can understand “why not” with all the confusion and often conflicting information.
WHAT READERS SHOULD DO, is actually look at the facts, as I presented here and in many other posts, not the hype, not PAR readings when PUR is more important.

The answers do not take a rocket scientist to decipher, so if you open your mind and look past the many reef forums and websites that do not use known science to prove their points, rather often attack others who provide facts with comments such as “they are not credible as they use or sell this product”, you will find that the answers for the best LEDs to use is actually quite easy.

Here is a website demonstrating the Ocean Blue 1500 and even newer Reef White 2000 LED in a reef aquarium with many corals:
Howard’s Reef; New light over the Shallow Reef

Reef Aquarium with Aquaray Aquabeam NP 1500 & 2000

Also please reference these excellent articles, including the first that deals with the subject of PUR versus PAR and how so many persons are often stuck on their LEDs with green emitters and other energy wasters that often require higher energy wattage to do the job of lighting a reef tank:

*PUR vs PAR in Aquarium Lighting
*TMC Ocean Blue NP Ultima Reef LED Light
*Aquarium LED Lights & Lighting