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Originated from WWM Digital Magazine: Vol. 2, Issue 3, Winter 2011

Related FAQs: LED Lighting, Marine Light & Lighting, FAQs 2 on Marine System Lighting, FAQs 3, FAQs 4, FAQs 5, FAQs 6, FAQs 7, FAQs 8, FAQs 9, FAQs 10, FAQs 11, FAQs 12, FAQs 13, FAQs 14, FAQs 15, FAQs 16, FAQs 17, FAQs 18, & FAQs on Marine Lighting: Fixture Selection 1,  Fixture Selection 2, Fixture Selection 3,  (incandescent, fluorescent, MH/HQI, LED, natural...), Lamp/Bulb Selection 1, Lamp/Bulb Selection 2, (See Fluorescent, LED, MH... below), Installing, Waste Heat Production/Elimination, UV Shielding, Measure, Troubles/Repairs, By Manufacturer Make/Model: & Fluorescent Lighting, Compact FluorescentsMetal Halide LightingMoving Light SystemsTridacnid LightingSmall System Lighting,

Related Articles: LED Lighting, the New Horizon in Aquarium Lighting? by James Gasta, Switching from Metal Halides to LEDs by Michael Maddox, Marine System Components, Science of Marine Light, Lighting Marine Invertebrates, Anemone LightingCoral System LightingLR LightingGFCIs and Marine Aquariums


TMC AquaRay MultiControl, AquaBeam 1000 HD Ultra, and AquaBeam 600 Ultra on test


 Reviewed by James Gasta

Tropical Marine Centre (TMC) may not be a familiar name to many viewers reading this review, but TMC, located in the United Kingdom, is Europe's leading supplier of marine fish and invertebrates to the trade offering an unparalleled range of marine fish and invertebrates from the largest aquarium-based holding facilities in Europe.  In addition to the above products, TMC also manufactures and distributes a range of market leading aquatic equipment including UV sterilizers, UV pond clarifiers, protein skimmers, ozonizers, monitors, filtration equipment and pumps, all-in-one nano systems, as well as a range of accessories and spares.  TMC is not just another company  jumping on the LED bandwagon, they have been manufacturing quality LED lighting and controllers since May, 2008.      


          TMCs invertebrate holding facility                                             One of TMCs filtration rooms



AQUARAY Multi Control

The AquaRay Multi Control featured here is TMCs top model with two other models being available. It incorporates eight outputs which can drive four AquaBeam 1000 HD Ultra Tiles or eight AquaBeam 500 or 600 Ultra strip lights, or any combination thereof.                         

                                                               AquaRay MultiControl 8


·         24 hour clock

·         Two programmable channels

·         Ramp up/down feature

·         Low and high power level settings

·         Eight output channels

·         Storm mode

·         Compact size 9L x 3 ¼W x 1 ¼D

·         Includes power supply capable of driving up to four AquaBeam Tiles

·         Two year warranty



The timer is based on a 24 hour clock. This means that 1800 represents 6pm, while 0100 represents 1am. The time is programmed with the minus and plus buttons. There are two individual channels that can be programmed. Channel one controls outputs one through six, and channel two controls outputs seven and eight.  Each channel can be programmed for different start/stop times as well as all other functions.  Once a program is entered into the controller, pressing the plus button will advance the program to the next step if desired. There is a ramp up/down feature which allows you to start the lights at a low power level and gradually ramp up to the desired high power level as well as ramp down to the desired low power level.  The ramp time can be programmed for a minimum of one minute up to 240 minutes or not used at all. The high level in both channels can be set from 1 to 100 and represents a percentage of power applied to the LEDs.  For those with shallow tanks, this can be a useful feature as the AquaBeam 1000 HD Ultra Tiles are very intense.  The low level is set the same as the above but the high level must be higher than the low level for the controller to operate. In this regard, channel two is useful for using moonlights or if you are using the 1000 HD Ultra Tiles, two 14K and three 50K blue LEDs can remain on at the low power level, or shut off completely until the start time activates the following day.  At a low power level setting of 1%, this proved to be a nice night time effect. The controller also features a storm mode. When activated, the controller will dim the lights to a 5% power level for five minutes to simulate an approaching storm. The lights will then simulate lightning by flashing at random intervals across a thirty minute span of time.  The controller will then stop flashing the lights and ramp up to the programmed power level across a five minute span of time.  This feature may be useful for spawning some freshwater fishes which are stimulated into spawning by rain storms.


To close this section of the review, I can attest that the controller is very user friendly, compact, and incorporates a battery back-up. In the event of a power failure, you will not have to reprogram the controller when power is restored. Mounting hardware is also included if one wishes to mount the controller inside a cabinet or other flat surface.


AQUABEAM 1000 HD Ultra LED Tile

With 45,000 AquaRay LED fixtures being sold worldwide, and three time winner of Practical Fishkeeping Magazines Marine Product of the Year, it should be no surprise that this LED fixture is highly rated. TMC began production of their AquaBeam 500 strip lights in May, 2008 which were then upgraded to the AquaBeam 600 Ultra in August 2010. The AquaBeam 1000 HD Ultra LED Tiles were launched in September, 2009.    The 1000 HD Ultra Tiles are available in two different versions suitable for reef systems, and are all manufactured at TMCs headquarters in Chorleywood, located just a short distance from London.

·         Marine White Ten 3 watt 14000K LEDs

·         Reef White Seven 3 watt 14000K LEDs, and three, 3 watt 50000K Marine Blue LEDs


The 50,000K blue LEDs equate to a 465-485nm nanometer wavelength which is in the beneficial spectrum range for coral growth, whereas the 420-440nm range would be of little use to many of the shallow water corals we keep.  This review will focus on the Reef White Tile which is the better choice for reef systems although Marine White can be used if desired, but with less color pop unless supplemented with the AquaBeam 600 Ultra Reef Blue Strip Light which will be discussed later.



·         Cree XR-E Power High Performance LED Emitters proprietary to TMC.

·         Compares to a 250 watt metal halide (10000-14000K) in useful light energy (PUR)

·         Water resistant construction

·         Multiple mounting options

·         LEDs are not overdriven

·         50,000> hours LED life with no loss of color and intensity

·         No cooling fan required

·         Light weight, under five pounds

·         Compact, measuring 7 5/8 x 7 5/8 x 1 ¾

·         Mounting hardware included for standard canopy mount

·         Power supply included

·         Five year warranty, one year on power supply



The heat sink is constructed of marine grade anodized aluminum and is where ten Cree high performance diodes are mounted, seven 14K white, and three Reef Blue (50K), and also serves as the heat sink.  The Cree XR-E LEDs are currently the brightest in the XR series. The top of the heat sink cleverly serves as a mount for installing on optional mounting systems by simply sliding the tiles onto the aluminum mounting rails.    




                               Bottom and side view of AquaBeam                                         Tiles mounted to the optional

                                              Ultra 1000 Tile                                                                     over the tank bracket                                                              

The heat sink is sandwiched between a top cover made of ABS polymer and the lens itself which is constructed from optically clear acrylic. The cable that connects the tile to the power supply or optional controller is three meters in length. This length ensures that a safe distance is kept between the power supply and water.  There are two pigtails at the connection end of the cord.  Each pig tail carries power for five LEDs.  One pigtail is wired to operate two 14000K, and three Reef Blue LEDs (465-485nm), and the remaining pigtail operates five 14000K LEDs. The tile is rated IP67 which is part of the European safety standard for aquarium luminaires.  Under test conditions, the tile has been submersed in water for up to thirty minutes with no ill effects.   Submersion in water will void the warranty, but its nice to know that should an accident happen, your unit will still operate. There are very few LED fixture manufacturers who can claim this.



All the LEDs used on the AquaBeam 1000 HD Ultra run at a forward voltage (the voltage after the LED resistance calculation) of 3.5VDC and are focused through 80 degree optical lenses with the exception of the three middle white LEDs which use 60 degree lenses to provide more punch to greater depths.  The diodes are not operated at the full voltage they are capable of but rather the voltage/current that produces the most lumens per watt thereby extending the operating life of the LEDs. The power supply is current regulated to run the diodes at a constant 700ma of current.


At a seven inch distance in open air, the AquaBeam 1000 HD Ultra produced a lumen reading of 27,900 lumens.  I performed the same test on a six lamp, 39 watt, T5 HO (three 10000K, and three 420nm actinic) fixture and recorded a lumen reading of 19,138 lumens. This was very impressive considering the apparent brightness of the T5 fixture, but here it must be understood that although fluorescent tubes and metal halide lamps do produce a lot of light, it is emitted in all directions, and even with the most efficient reflectors there are large amounts of light lost.  With LEDs, the light is focused directly down into the aquarium. 

Although the above spectrograph represents the wavelength of the Marine White, TMC informs me that the Reef White is nearly identical but with an added spike in the 465nm area. 

A word about lux before I list the lux readings I had taken of the AquaBeam 1000 HD Ultra Tiles.  Lux is a measure of how many lumens are present in a given area (1 lux = 1 lumen per square meter. This is equivalent to: 1 lux = 0.0929 lumens per square foot).  Its essentially a measure of photon density or light concentration.  A denser cloud of photons (high lux) means there are more lumens hitting a given area which produces more brightness.

The following lux readings were taken with the LED lens seven inches above the waters surface.

3 inches in depth = 51,000 lux

6 inches in depth = 44,500 lux

18 inches in depth = 35,600 lux

By comparison, lux in tropical reefs has been measured to be between 110,000 and 120,000 at the surface of the reef, and 20,000 to 25,000 one meter below the surface.

PAR readings were equally impressive considering the excellent PUR wavelengths the AquaBeam 1000 HD Ultra produces.  The PAR charts at various depths can be viewed at the following link.


The AquaBeam 1000 HD Ultra Reef White is the right hand chart and the left hand chart is the Marine White, the grid lines are five inches apart. For your convenience I have converted the depth in mm to inches.

600mm = 23.4 inches

500mm = 19.5 inches

400mm = 15.6 inches

300mm = 11.7 inches

200mm = 7.8 inches

A complaint I often hear from aquarists switching from T5s or metal halides to LEDs is that they arent as bright as my T5s or metal halides were.  Bright in this case refers to the luminosity of the light or how it looks to our eyes.  This is controlled by our color receptors and quality LED fixtures emit, or should emit a great deal of PUR, and most of the PUR corals and other light loving invertebrates thrive on are not in the spectral range that our eyes view as being bright, even though the LEDs are likely emitting more PUR than did the T5s and metal halides.


Power Usage and Energy Costs


The following measurements were taken with a P4400 KW Meter and are for three AquaBeam 1000 HD Ultra tiles.  With the exception of the voltage and power factor measurements, dividing the below results by three will give you the readings for one tile.


Voltage 123.8

Current - .73

Watts 82.7

PF (power factor) 91

KW/hour - .082


Based on my energy providers total rate of 13.5 cents per kilowatt hour, three AquaBeam tiles running 10 hours per day for 30 days, resulted in an energy cost of $3.35 per month.  I had to run that calculation twice as I found this hard to believe considering the intensity of light this system provides. The energy efficient, six lamp, 39 watt, T5 HO fixture the three AquaBeam Tiles replaced, had a monthly energy use of $9.47, and that does not include the energy cost of four fans that run when the system is on. And you can add to that the yearly T5 lamp replacement cost of approximately $130.00.



The AquaBeam Reef White 1000 HD Ultra Tile produces a very pleasing and intense ice blue color, a beautiful ripple effect, very little heat, and has an array of mounting options which will be discussed later.  The Tridacna crocea clam and corals I have chosen to place in the review system have been doing exceptionally well and exhibit nice color under this lighting system.  For those wishing to accent the color, an AquaBeam 600 Marine Blue strip light can be added.  The photos below were taken with an AquaBeam 600 Reef Blue complementing  three Reef White 1000 HD Ultra Tiles. The review aquarium measures 38L x 21.5W x 22H.  Total tank volume including rear sump/filtration area is 66 gallons.  At present, the AquaBeam 1000 HD Ultra Tiles are priced at $299.99 each.  The cost to light the review system is $900.00 excluding the AquaRay Multi Control 8 which is a very nice option but is not required. Considering the power output, longevity (50,000+ hours), build quality, compactness, and the included power supply, I found this system to be an exceptional value.



AquaBeam 600 Ultra Lighting Strip


The  Aquabeam 600 Ultra LED strips are attractively packaged, much similar to the AquaBeam 1000 HD Ultra Tiles.  There a four versions available for marine use, and are also available in twin packs with a single power supply which operates both strips.

      ·         Reef White three 14000K and two blue 50000K LEDs
      ·         Marine White five 14000K LEDs
      ·         Marine Blue two 14000K and three blue 50000K LEDs
      ·         Reef Blue five blue (465-485nm) 50000K LEDs

 The LEDs used in the AquaBeam 600 Ultra are identical to those used in the AquaBeam 1000 HD Ultra Tiles.


 Â·         Cree XR-E three watt LED emitters proprietary to TMC

·         Water resistant construction

·         LEDs are not overdriven

·         50,000> hours LED life with no loss of color and intensity

·         No cooling fan required

·         Compact, measuring 19 x 2 x 1

·         Multiple mounting options

·         Mounting hardware included for standard canopy mount

·         AquaRay Microfibre wet/dry cleaning cloth

·         Power supply included

·         Five year warranty, one year on power supply



The heat sink is constructed of marine grade anodized aluminum and is where five Cree XR-E (Marine White version) high performance diodes are mounted.  Cree XR-E blue, 50000K (465-485nm) LEDs are used in tandem with Cree XR-E 14000K LEDs in the other versions listed above.  As featured in the AquaBeam 1000 HD Ultra, the top of the heat sink cleverly serves as a mount for installing on optional mounting systems by simply sliding the strips onto the aluminum mounting rails. Very similar to the AquaBeam Tiles, the heat sink is sandwiched between a top cover made of ABS polymer and the LED cover itself which is constructed from optically clear acrylic. The LEDs are not equipped with optical lenses and so they have a wider projection angle which is benefical when an array of these strips are used for lighting smaller aquariums. The cable that connects the tile to the power supply or optional controller is three meters in length.


        A peek at whats included with the Ultra 600 Strip.                            An Ultra 600 Marine Blue LED strip mounted

                                                                                                                                  along side three Ultra 1000 HD Tiles.


Do not confuse the AquaBeam 600 Ultra LED strips with the so called stunner strips.  The AquaBeam 600 Ultra LED Strip Lights use the same high power LEDs found on the AquaBeam Tiles and are quite capable of providing intense and useful light in smaller systems and/or when used in the blue versions to provide extra punch in the 465-485nm range and produces additional color accent when used in tandem with the AquaBeam 1000 HD Ultra Reef White or Marine White Tiles.   


Marine Blue shown on an optional mounting system

Power Usage and Energy Costs


The following measurements were taken with a P4400 KW Meter. 


Voltage 123.8

Current 0.18

Watts 11.2

PF (power factor) 47

KW/hour - .011


Based on my energy providers total rate of 13.5 cents per kilowatt hour, one AquaBeam 600 Ultra LED Strip running 10 hours per day for 30 days, resulted in an energy cost of $0.42 cents per month.  Three hundred hours per month of beneficial lighting for 42 cents sure has to be the bargain of the century in lighting efficiency.




The AquaBeam 600 Ultra that I reviewed is the Reef Blue version (50K/465-485nm).  Using it with three AquaBeam 1000 HD Ultra Reef White Tiles provided a very pleasing color accent of the corals and clam while also providing a punch in the useful nanometer range of 465-485 and not creating an overly dramatic appearance.  Additional strips can be used if one wishes a deeper blue look. At the current price of $144.99, I consider it a bargain in terms of workmanship, quality of components used and power output.


AquaRay Mounting Options


TMC provides several mounting options for their LED systems which can be used on tanks as small as a nano, or for large home aquariums and holding systems for both retail store and wholesaler use.  At the time of this writing many of the mounting options were just being released.  Browsing their web site should show currently available mounting options.




Early development stage of the review tank showing the AquaBeam HD 1000 Tiles and AquaBeam

600 Ultra Marine Blue Strip Light mounted on the optional above tank bracket assembly.  The review aquarium is a Red                         Sea Max 250 with the hood removed.                

                                                                                                TMC left no stone unturned when it comes to mounting options available for both their tiles and strip lights.  The entire product line has been well thought out and engineered by TMC. These products are certainly worth adding to your short list when shopping for LED systems.

 Useful links


You Tube Video; Marine Aquarium with Aqua Ray 500/1000

YouTube Video, Marine Aquarium with TMC Aqua Ray LED Lights

You Tube Video; Planted Freshwater Aquarium; sunrise to Sunset




 Retail stores providing AquaBeam/AquaRay products at time of writing:

 American Aquarium Design and Maintenance - San Dimas, CA
 Aquatic Fantasy - Redondo Beach, CA
 Beyond the Reef - Bloomsburg, PA
 House of Fins - Greenwich, CT
 Manhattan Aquarium - New York, NY
 Marine Scene - Hendon, VA
 Octopus Garden - San Diego, CA
 Preuss Animal House - Lansing, MI
 Reef Culture - Tempe, AZ
 Tong's Tropical Fish - Fountain Valley, CA
 Tropical Illusions - Bellflower, CA
 J & L Aquatics - Burnaby, British Columbia
 Pisces Exotica Pet Emporium - Calgary, Alberta 

US Distributor: Quality Marine Wholesale only



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