Are There Reasons To Buy Anything Other Than An LED Light For Your Aquarium?

LED lights have come a long way. We are long past the early adopter phase when LEDs were expensive and prone to failure. There are dozens of companies manufacturing high-quality LED lights that will last a long time. LEDs will save you money because they use less electricity, produce less heat and they do not have bulbs that need to be replaced. Many are also controllable.

So, if LEDs are so good, why would anyone consider buying anything other than an LED light for their aquarium? There are a few very good reasons to go the LED/T5 HO Hybrid or T5 HO route instead of just the LED route. The rationale for doing this is more important with reef aquariums.

For Reef Aquariums
Coverage Gaps: As many aquarists with LEDs have noticed, LED lights do not provide an even coverage throughout an aquarium. With many LEDs there are gaps, especially in the upper corners of the aquarium and around and between branches of corals. With T5 bulbs you get a much more even coverage. With many cheaper LED lights you will also notice in the substrate little dots of red, blue or green LED light. It isn't very attractive or natural looking.

Quality of Light: Beautiful corals require near-UV actinic lighting. They also require a variety of light spectrum. Without sufficient near-UV light, and without a wide range of light spectrum, corals will still be healthy, but they will not be as brightly colored. We'll explain why.

First of all, when we talk about coral coloration, it is important to differentiate between viewing under LED lights and development under LED lights. You can put a quality LED light over a reef tank that already has brightly colored colors, and in the short term the corals will probably fluoresce beautifully on day one. However, over time they will lose color if you only use LED lights.

Why do coral lose coloration with LEDs? It's because color coloration over time is a reaction to the particular colors shining on the coral. Coral coloration is a defensive reaction to colored lights. It is similar to humans tanning under the sun. It's a defense mechanism that produces pigment. The problem with LEDs is each type of LED is exactly one color. And even the best LEDs on the market have a max of eight unique colors. While LED light fixtures only have a few colors, fluorescent lights have thousands of colors. Over time your corals will be more colorful with fluorescent lights than with LEDs. They won't be bigger and they won't be healthier, but they will show a wider variety of colors and the colors will be brighter and more vivid.

Hybrid Solutions: A solution to the problems with LEDs is a LED/T5 Hybrid such as the AquaticLife Hybrid/Kessil Combo Packages. With these combos you will get the best of all worlds. From the Kessil you get the color and dimming control capabilities along with the shimmer effect that is unique to Kessil. The AquaticLife Hybrid will fill in the gaps in the corners and improve the development of coral color. If you use the Kessil LEDs with the AquaticLife Hybrid and Giesemann bulbs you will have the best light on the market.

T5 Light Offerings: For reef aquariums you may still want to use T5 HO light fixtures. As mentioned previously, T5 lamps will spread the light over the aquarium more evenly. You are less likely to have "dead spots" in the upper corners. T5 lights in general will also be better than cheaper LED lights when it comes to providing full spectrum lighting and providing near-UV lighting. If you want beautiful coral coloration (in the long term), and you don't want a Hybrid, you might be happier with a T5 HO than with an LED light.

Many manufacturers have been phasing out T5 Lights. We still have some two bulb and four bulb options from Coralife and Wavepoint. Recently we brought in the Hamilton 6-Lamp Fiji Sun T5 HO Fixtures to meet the needs of those aquarists who need ample light for their reef and want even coverage and superior coral coloration. You can get these with the Hamilton lamps or Giesemann lamps, and these fixtures will provide enough light for tanks with hard corals up to 24 inches deep.

For Non-Reef Aquariums
With non-reef aquariums we are not aware of the light spectrum of LEDs lights having a downside. However, your aquarium and its inhabitants may look better with T5 HO lights because there will be fewer dead spots. If you use Giesemann Lamps the light will give you a quality of light that is as attractive as the best LED lights and much more attractive than the mid-priced and cheap LEDs on the market.

Choosing the Right Light
Please visit our lighting charts if you need help choosing a light for your aquarium.
- Reef Aquarium Lighting Chart
- Planted Tank & Fish Only Tank Lighting Chart