The problem with most LEDs on the market
Chihiros: LEDs are quite often utilised in aquariums. Generally, they can grow plants well enough. The main group that finds problems with them are persons that are striving to cultivate red plants ideally. Old school T5 users found that they cultivated better red plants with their customised T5 lights than most commercially available LEDs. LEDs are sleek and more energy-saving, and while most of them grow green plants well, 95% lack the optimal spectrum for promoting pigmentation in red plants.
Many of them grow red plants ‘okay’ but not to the colour saturation of which the plants were capable of – this led to many red plant fans switching back to utilising the previous T5 system. For plant-centred persons where plant pigmentation and colour are crucial, there were still superior possibilities for spectrum selection employing speciality T5 bulbs. Most commercially available aquarium LED units lack appropriate red and blue spectrum compared to the spectrum that speciality T5 bulbs supply.
This is partly owing to the adoption of white LED diodes, which often lack a red spectrum. Most white LEDs have a decent bit of blue, and substantial quantities of green/yellow, but lack red. A sample 6500k LED’s spectral curve is illustrated below.
LEDs that can grow red plants nicely
These have altered in recent years though, as we discover this set of LEDs does very well or cultivating greater challenge, colourful plant species. The key distinction between them and other aquarium LEDs on the market is that they predominantly employ RGB diodes and no white diodes. This provides them with a greater red/blue spectrum compared to most other aquarium LEDs.
This set of LEDs comprises the following:
- ADA solar RGB (by Aqua Design Amano) (by Aqua Design Amano)
- Twinstar S Series
- WRGB2 and Vivid 2 by Chihiros
- Week Aqua P Series, a430 series
- Life Aqua master pro (by Maxlite in Hong Kong) (by Maxlite in Hong Kong)
- UNS titan
- ONF Flat one (slightly more rounded spectrum) (slightly more rounded spectrum)
What makes them distinct from the other RGB LEDs on the market?
This series of LEDs employ exclusively RGB diodes to generate ‘white light’. This also implies that they have a larger ratio of Red/blue light compared to other LED lamps while preserving overall white balance through the usage of green diodes. This offers these fixtures very great visual colour saturation and contrast for red plants and blue fish. The intense red spectrum is also helpful for plant colouring and growth patterns.
Maxlite (above) employs entirely RGB LEDs with no white LEDs. All the LEDs in the list above have a similar spectrum profile (as below); with big spikes in red, and blue-green due to the usage of RGB diodes.
This can be compared with more standard aquarium LEDs such as the Chihiros X300 and Chihiros WRGB 1 shown below that have a wider spread spectrum. These are nice lights, but, the ones above with pure RGB diodes offer superior visual colour saturation and contrast and grow red plants better.
Differences between the different brands
The Chihiros vivid is programmable and cheaper (but has fans) whereas the Life Aqua master pro is dimmable and water-resistant. The ADA solar RGB is a low-frills device yet bears the ADA brand name. Due to the exact diodes used for their RGB profile; there are also subtle changes in visual colouring – the ADA solar RGB and UNS titan have a slightly richer green tone compared to the Maxlite and Chihiros vivid.
ONF Flat one has a more rounded spectrum with less contrast compared to the rest; it may seem more ‘natural’ but less stunning. Week Aqua has lately entered the market and their lights offer superb spectrum choices with the addition of UV diodes that other LEDs lack and are customizable. Their P series and A series are superb. The only negative is the difficulty to use application control.
Other lights with strong red/blue spectrums
SBreef lights are another popular option among technically oriented folks. The fixture is huge and hefty, yet comes with exceptionally good PAR values, given the fixture cost. This fixture is for those that appreciate inexpensive, high-powered lights, but are less concerned with the aesthetics of the fixture itself which is huge and massive. It is programmable with an in-built electronic timer and its spectrum may be modified. The biggest drawback of such lamps is the purple backlight.
Super Budget Options
Chinese black boxes are a nickname for inexpensive, high-powered grow lights suited for indoor farming that you can buy online (typically made/shipped from China). These occasionally come in a more neutral spectrum (white/orange combined with red/blue LEDs or RGB), however, most typically they come in just red/blue diodes. These grow plants well and give great bang for the buck. However, finding one that is not merely pink, creating an extremely purple visual depiction, may be challenging.