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FAQs about Light and Lighting for Marine Systems, Fixture Selection 1

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As with most all "gear" questions, I'd look/ask about on the various specialized BB's re actual user experiences in a broad stroke... Reef Frontiers, ReefCentral, Reefs.org... Compare notes re customer service, useful life, energy consumption per function, alternatives, applications. Bob Fenner

I've been told that you can use VHO fluorescents on tanks up to about 24" deep, but more than that you need metal halides. Does it go the other way, too? I mean, if you have a tank that is only 12" tall, can you use regular full-spectrum fluorescents and still have a successful reef?

To a large degree yes; though an answer to this sort of query must delve into a few statements of fact, definitions and qualifiers to be of real use. First, let's agree that the intensity of light (number or quanta of photons) is the principal difference between full-spectrum fluorescents (FSF) and metal halide (MH) lighting sources. That is, both types produce adequate amounts of light in necessary and desirable (function and aesthetic) wavelengths to support and showcase captive reef life. MH is more intense, and thus able to penetrate to greater depths and provides more light to shallow ones. Whether this is critical or something you want though depends on two further major considerations: the type of life you intend to keep, and how much you want to "push" it. In aquariums as in the wild, there is a broad range of benefit and tolerance to more light. For example, Corallimorpharians (coral anemones), most of the photosynthetic gorgonians and soft corals (Order Alcyonacea) available to hobbyists get along quite well on FSF and compact fluorescents (CF) in the deepest of hobby aquariums. On the other hand, several of the popular true or stony corals (Order Scleractinia), do poorly unless provided either a roost in a shallower setting (with FSF, CF), or MH in greater depths. The "pushing" issue is a consideration of how much you want to enhance your organisms metabolic rates. Lighting, along with nutrient availability, conscientious filtration, and current are principal inputs to this physiological "driving". Do you want your Acropora for instance to grow about as fast as possible? Maybe it will become more spindly, less colorful, more short-lived as a consequence... Perhaps the cost of water testing, dosing and amelioration is only "worth it" up to a point. Each aquarist must ask themselves this question; "Per the species/specimen and environmental settings, what do I want my livestock to do?" Obviously all light-affected life needs to be accommodated within its environmental tolerance; hence you must study and provide at least the minimum or at most the maximum amounts of light per that species/specimen in your setting. Such information is invaluable, and often more than just a matter of reading and chatting with other reef hobbyists and dealers. A tried and true approach for new introductions is initially placing them further down or away from the most intense light area, and moving them "toward the light" as they display a propensity for it. One last element of this "how much light will do/is too much" question I'd feel remiss to leave out is the effects of dissolved (mainly colored) material in the systems water. The cleanest of seawater absorbs, reflects and diffracts light; more and more with depth. The presence of suspended solids and various chemicals has an additional, often pronounced effect on diminishing photo strength. In practical terms, and for more than light penetration reasons, you want to keep concentrations of this matter to a minimum; principally through skimming, water changes and possibly the use of chemical filtrants. This is an area of discussion that merits much more emphasis and investigation.

Reef lighting, Hagen Lamps Bob, <Hi Frank, Craig here today.> Good Day ! Is Hagen Powerglo Fluor. Aquarium Lamp: - Service Life - 9000 hours - Promotes coral, invertebrate and plant growth - High intensity - Photosynthetic deep marine spectrum - Total illumination for living corals, marine algae and freshwater plants; and Hagen Marine~Glo Fluor. Aquarium Lamp - Service Life - 7500 hours - Promotes marine reef life - Standard intensity - Visible actinic blue spectrum - Simulates deep marine light - Stimulates marine growth Are the above two Hagen brand bulbs suitable for a coral reef tank as I noticed "plant growth" on the product.  Thank you for your advice. Regards, Frank <Your lighting demands are determined by the type of reef inhabitants you wish to keep and the depth of your tank. There are many aquarium lights that are labeled for use in reef aquariums, but there are some caveats to such use, i.e: lighting requirements of inhabitants and depth. The shallowest of tanks (just a few inches) can use normal output florescent lamps, any deeper than a few inches requires high output, then Very High Output, PowerCompact florescent, and the deepest tanks, metal halides of increasing wattage. Your question needs to be framed with the required information to come to such a conclusion, i.e: what inhabitants and how deep? The best all around lighting in my estimation for shallow to medium depth tanks with a general population is VHO florescent. For much more information on lighting surf over to WetWebMedia.com, scroll to the Google search, and type in "lighting". Please write back if you have any further questions! Craig>

Better than metal halide? Someone selling hydroponic lights claims they are better than Metal halide  <that is a dubious and inappropriate/inaccurate claim. Lights are "better" or "worse" simply based upon your invertebrates needs, not the salesman's needs <wink>. Case in point... if your tank is 24" or deeper, MH lamps may be necessary just to keep moderate light animals and more so for sps corals and clams. In this regard MH are "better" as they penetrate whatever deeper with better PAR. In terms of useful PAR per wattage of power consumption ("efficiency" or "bang for the buck") ... MH also performs much better than PC or VHO. However, if you have a shallow tank (under 18") and want to keep soft corals and mushrooms... MH will be harmful and PC would be very fine! It all depends on matching your selected inverts needs at depths to the abilities of the lamps to penetrate with useful light> and these are the specs he gave me: Kelvin rating of 6500 over 8,000 Lumens 500 watts of the Bluefish/White Full Spectrum Light draws 65 watts PC fluorescent bulb Would these lights work on a reef tank?  <they would work but will have a decidedly daylight/yellow hue. Most aquarists don't find this attractive at all... many pretty colors lost in warm daylight> I have a 135 gallon I am setting up and was considering 2 or 3 of these instead of MH.  I would like to keep SPS but  <for sps, these lights will only allow you to keep such corals and clams in the top 10-12 inches of water approximately... very limiting. MH are MUCH better for hardcore lighting needs> I'm concerned about the short and long term expense for MH lights  <MH are far more economical than any other popular light... I could give you more published data on this than you have time or interest to read <G>. The bulbs last longer, the light penetrates deeper, the lamps stay truer and all put out more useful PAR than any other lamps. 10K Ushio or Aqualine for color and growth> and a chiller.  <the chiller with a halide is an unfounded legend... the heat they put out is no worse than VHO fluorescents (both are VERY hot) and all are such a small contribution if designed properly. Poorly designed stands and canopies and pumps (submersible powerheads and sump pumps instead of a proper external sump and a manifold) contribute much more heat> If I keep mostly soft corals and fish, how many watts per gallon should I have or is there a better way to determine how much light I should have? Thank you for advice. Gerardo <no watts per gallon rule is effective my friend. The needs of the huge family of soft corals are so varied anyway... you really need to sit down and make a fairly specific list of the animals you will keep before addressing their needs. A mixed species garden tank is a nightmare in the long run... beyond that, decide on Zoantharians... sps... leathers... gorgonians...etc. Anthony>

Re: Better than metal halide? O.k., I will do a little reading and determine what kinds of corals I will keep. As far as factors other than lights contributing to heat you mentioned manifolds. Any advice on what to avoid when designing one? I actually in the middle of plumbing my tank and had to take a break from those fumes!! <please use the Google search feature on WWM my friends to peruse the archives... use words you are interested in of course like "manifolds". It has been covered many times here and abroad on the 'Net. My apologies for not explaining it over again but we just have such a useful tool in the WWM archives (a ~300 meg site!!!) and so little time as volunteers with the extraordinary volume of mail received daily. Best regards>

Reef Lighting Hi I have a 75g glass tank. 48" long 25" deep 18" wide. My lighting is only 3 40 watts fluorescent lamps which gives me a very low 1.6 watts/gallon, 2 6500K daylight and 1 Blue, <Very moderate lighting, inadequate for most photosynthetic animals to generate enough energy for long-term captive care. I am not even militantly against normal output fluorescents. I actually like them a lot. I use them on my 55 and have seen several 75's setup with them, but my 55 uses four 40 watt lamps and the 75's I have seen use six 40 watt lamps. The corals are also carefully selected as coming from low light areas, with low light requirements.> just the F40B type and planning to achieve at least a 5 watts/gallon. Right now I have a full blown reef setup. My corals are almost all LPS. I have 2 hammer, 1 frogspawn, 1 torch corals , 2 green elegance coral, 2 Goniopora , pink long tentacle plate, moon coral, lobed open brain, red and pink lobed open brain, green open brain, bubble coral and a green star polyps. My mushrooms colonies are blue spotted, green fuzzy, pink and green Ricordea and super red mushroom. And 2 blue clams, don't know what kind. <You have some low light animals, except for the notable exceptions of the clams and long tentacle plate coral, but even none of the low light ones will survive for two years under your present lighting. And the Goniopora are just plain awful.> I have 7 fishes, 1 A. ocellaris, tomato clown, 2 clarkii clown, <All of these different clownfish is a bad idea. You can sometimes get away with it with a really large tank (over 125 gallons and 6' long) and by using all captive raised individuals, but it is still a recipe to problems.> Scopas tang, yellowtail damsel and domino damsel, <The domino is another lurking disaster waiting.> all are getting along well but a bit of aggression between A. ocellaris and Clarkii but not hurting each other, <Yet> just a showing their sides a clicking dance like thing. And a Heteractis Crispa anemone <Oh boy! This anemone has no chance under you current lighting. It will be dead in six months to a year.> and Coral banded and Cleaner shrimp. All of them are doing well for 4 months but the clams are only a month in the tank. <This is way too short of a period to determine if anything is doing well. You have made some poor choices and/or been advised badly. Give it a year and you will have a different picture of how well things are going.> I'm planning on adding new lights to my setup because I know that they are insufficient. Will a Compact fluorescent lamp be able to maintain the colors of the clams and SPS type corals since I'm planning to put some Acropora. <Your clams and most SPS will need to be placed in the top 6-12" of water and you will need to add an additional 4-55 watt PC's, IMO.> Or should I go for VHO? <VHO and PC and about the same intensity. If anything, I would say PC are slightly more powerful.> And also will it change the colors of my corals. <Yes, corals adapt to their lighting (to a point).> Right now my green open brain is greener with orange stripes than before, my 2 elegance corals which I bought bleached is now dark brown with green and the other is a beautiful golden brown with green stripes, my anemone is browner and its tips are greener in fact it is bright green, when I bought it had yellow tips. My other corals are now looking well and no signs of bleaching and tissue recession. But I don't know if the clams will maintain its colors but is under 5" of water (very close to the lights). I don't have any tests kits because except for Strontium and Iodine I don't dose anything. <You should have pH, ammonia, nitrite, nitrate, calcium, and alkalinity test kits.> I change 10% of water every 5 days with Tropic Marin to replenish the lost trace elements and reduce nitrates. <Excellent schedule> I don't have a sump, refugium, or calcium reactor but I do have a quarantine tank. <The sump is not a necessity, just a nice place to hide stuff. The calcium reactor and refugium are very useful tools, but you can do other things to make them unnecessary.> My reef tank is just a simple tank with lights over it. I do have lots of current inside with powerheads and a skimmer of course with my live rocks and sand bed being the primary filtration. <My only complaints are with you current lighting, coral selection, and lack of test kits/information on how you tank is doing.> The only hard thing to do is putting ice over the tank every 2 to 3 days to prevent the temperature to rise above 28 C. I maintain the temp at about 25-27 C. <The use of fans, fewer powerheads (but you need a sump, overflow, and external return pump instead of PH's), and properly vented canopies and stands are easier and more reliable than ice.> Also my coralline algae growth is slow, but I have lots of reddish or I think its maroon coralline algae and some purple ones. And some Diatoms which the Astrea snails keep under control. Can I use purified drinking water for mixing my sea salt? <I strongly urge all reef tank keepers to use purified water; reverse osmosis or deionization.> So which will it be the PC's or VHO? <Additional PC's> And also do I have to acclimate them to the new lighting since I noticed that they have adapted to my current lighting? <Yes, please search www.WetWebMedia.com using the Google feature for a very good piece written by Anthony Calfo on coral acclimation to lighting.> I always visit your website because it has a lot of information about reef keeping. Great site. Thanks and "MABUHAY" (its means long live and success) <And you do the same. -Steven Pro>

Lighting Hi Guys, I need some help on lighting. I would like to know if I can mix VHO & CF. <Yes> I currently have A 75g flat back hex tank. Due to configuration, I cannot fit (4) 4ft. bulbs. I already have a 3 ft CF fixture with (2) 96w bulbs. I would like to add (2) 4ft VHO fixtures which would up my total wattage to 412w. Is this an o.k. set up? <Sure. I would use full spectrum power compact lamps with actinic VHO's. I like the actinic VHO's better than the PC/CF ones.> Are there any coral I could not keep? <There will always be corals you cannot keep. Any given tank will be better at satisfying one particular group/type of photosynthetic animals.> Are clams still out of the question? <May not be a great choice as the hardiest clams grow rather large, over a foot in length. This tank is rather small for them to fit and there is always a concern for them closing abruptly and shooting water out of the tank.> Thanks in advance. Rocco <You are welcome. -Steven Pro>

Lighting II Hi Steven, Thanks for the quick response. I more thing. You suggested (2) full spectrum CF with (2) VHO actinic. I can only position these so that 2 full sp CFL are toward the front or the back of the tank. Same with the VHO. Is this ok? If so which toward front and which toward back? Thanks again. Rocco <I tend to place my actinics at the front of the tank. -Steven Pro>

Lighting III Anthony, You have been very kind to me, answering these lighting questions must be redundant and frustrating.  <really not at all...glad anyone cares to know my opinion> What I neglected to tell you is that I have had this tank up and running for about 15 months now. I have PC lights currently (CSL 2x96 white, 2x96 actinics) and am keeping softies (mushrooms, xenia, leathers.)  <very nice...appropriate lighting to for many of the softies> I thought that if I could upgrade to MH I could give the softies to a friend and take a stab and the LPS and clams.  <hmmm... The most LPS and clams (especially derasa and Hippopus) can live under your current lighting just fine (bulbs have been changed recently, or do so please)> I really do enjoy the SPS (cats paw, certain colors of Acropora [sp?] cup & scroll corals) but I can do without now that I know the trouble I am asking for by mixing the three. <yes...very much agreed. For starters, many LPS are just too staggeringly aggressive and many so the SPS are finicky about consistent water quality> So here it is. I will order 2x175 watt MH with the PFO ballast, use Ushio's 10K bulbs. <is this one of the electronic ballasts? If so, you might save your money unless the lightweight is a big appeal. Recent studies have shown that the marketing claims of the electronic ballast folks are borderline fraudulent (more light, less electricity, etc). At best, it will take five or more years to recoup the investment. I wouldn't bother... a $50 standard ballast will work as well. Watts is Watts, as they  Then I will order 2x55 watt VHO actinics using Ice Cap 430 ballast. <very nice... I like Ice Cap and respect their customer service. But do you mean 110 watt 4' VHO's?> Can you help me understand all that is needed for this setup? I'm sure I could call the e-tailors and ask what is needed, but I have a feeling they will only hear dollar signs in my voice and bleed me dry. Ok, for the MH I would need the ballast + wiring, I am assuming a Mongol socket? I like the look of the spider reflector (that or I will paint the hood white. not all that sure what is best) and went on Sanjays (sp?) web site and read about this reflector. Do you know of it? It comes with a mogul socket, is it universal and will fit the Ushio bulb and my wiring? <yes... overall I really like Sanjay's report and agree> On to the VHO, the bulb 48", the length of my tank. I would need the bulbs, the ballast + wiring, and end caps. What I don't understand is how it is hooked up to the inside of my hood. I read about acrylic racks or stand offs, do you know which on would be best using a reflector such as the spider? Or what is best for a canopy? <yes... you'll need the VHO end caps for certain, and the acrylic standoffs are convenient and worth the price. If a ready made hardness is available, do buy it unless you are comfortable reading the wiring diagram for DIY (easy and color coded, but not my preference). And as far as the canopy, I'd be inclined to use a reflector that lines the entire canopy to encompass the VHO's and halides. I haven't used the spider reflector to know if that is convenient but I suspect it can be made to do so. Perhaps Sanjay would be kind enough to enlighten us both on it. Do advise me if you discover it is so> Dang, I didn't mean for this to be such a long letter :( Sorry about that. Thank you so very much for you patients and all of the help you have offered me. I hope I can find some way to pay you back! Robert <one word: beer... OK, more than one word: no thanks necessary...really my pleasure. Kind regards, Anthony> <Sanjay... Anthony Calfo here mentoring on Bob Fenner's WWM. I'm forward this fellow's message along for your input if you can share a moment. The question posed to you is about a good commercial or DIY reflector for 2 halides and a pair of VHO in the same canopy? The lamp recommendation is stated below influenced by your study in part. Reply back to this address if you can. Thanks kindly, my friend. Anthony Calfo> Lighting IV Hey Anthony, this is the last email! I swear! :-) <no worries... happy to be of service. Just sitting here eating some tasty special brownies that Bob sent me before leaving and I feel very relaxed. I feel as though I could just sit here for hours answering e-mail... or at least staring at the monitor... hey, what are these cool herbs sprinkled throughout my brownie? Boy do I have the munchies... sure glad I have these brownies here. Man... I love Pink Floyd tunes> I am changing the PFO idea to Blueline I think they have the e-ballast. Sounds better! <hold on there Tonto!... have you looked at the comparative studies of ALL of the MH lamps including the above mentioned? You REALLY need to take a closer look. And as far as the ballast goes... prelims suggest that the claims of electronic ballast manufacturers are difficult to support. Some say not even close to being worth the money. My advice stands as before and was quite deliberate in brand recommendation: for 10K, Ushio or AB and for 6500K the Iwasaki. A regular ballast will be fine. This combination will serve you for 2-3 years before you even have to change a bulb!> >I haven't used the spider reflector to know if that is convenient but I suspect it can be made to do so. Perhaps Sanjay would be kind >enough to enlighten us both on it. Do advise me if you discover it is so> I'm sorry to say but Sanjay does not have an e-mail address on his web site. I have yet to see if the spider reflector can be used with VHO actinics and MH. I hope so! My canopy is 10" tall and the spider comes down 4.5" I think as long as the VHO is lower then that I will be fine. Just keep my eye on salt creep. If you know if Sanjay has a web address posted somewhere could you let me know?  <I do have his address, my friend... but allow me to pass this message along for his reply> I would like to be able to ask him this question. If it does not work, what are your thoughts on painting the canopy top white? Or would I be better off going to HD and getting flashing cut to fit? Thank you again!! Robert <I'm not at all thrilled with the painting idea... but perhaps a polished aluminum reflector. Lets hear what Sanjay has to say. He has a great engineering mind and time spent on this subject in research. Kindly, Anthony Calfo>

Best/Better Reflectors for reef light canopies Sorry, I was out of town for last few days. <Sanjay... no worries. Thank you my friend for taking the time to share your opinion> Of the premade reflectors, the 2 most popular are the spider light and the PFO reflectors. If you have problems with getting them into a hood, the next best option is to make your own by buying sheets of the reflective material and installing them in your hood. Champion (Lighting and Supply Company) sells different sizes and there may be others on the web who do as well. White paint is not a good solution, neither is the flashing from Home Depot. The reflective material should be anodized to prevent corrosion. Using these reflective materials (most of them are the Everbrite by Alcoa) you can easily get 20-40% more light into your tank. Sanjay. <wonderful... I'll be sure to pass this along. Thanks again very kindly, Anthony Calfo> Lighting and Reflectors Anthony- Thank you so much for the email from Sanjay! I feel quite honored to have both of your input into my lighting system. :)  <it is my honour that anyone should care to know my opinion> I just ordered my 2x175 watt MH PFO dual, & 110 watt VHO actinic IcaCap430. The MH are Ushio 10K and the Actinic lights are 03 URI (or IUR, RUI, IRU.. damn my dyslexic mind!) <correct...URI, outstanding quality fluorescents> I ordered the spider reflectors. My original question was not if the Spider reflector was my best choice, but if I can use the Spider Reflector with the VHO bulbs below it.  <I do recall... my apologies... I did not have enough experience to comment and Sanjay may have overlooked it> No worries, in 5-7 working days I will find out if it can work. In any event I know now what will be my best second choice if it does fail to work. <please do let us learn from your experience> Thanks for your time and effort! It has made difference for the positive for my future coral. Robert <you made the difference for caring... continue to do so. Anthony>

Lighting SPS and Maxima Clams  All and extra info is appreciated. I have found out from numerous sources that 440watt VHO is not enough to support sps and maxima clams for my 75gal 21"deep tank. Is this true?  <borderline leaning toward true depending on the species of sps kept and the depth in the tank at which you keep them> If so I will invest in metal halides. Do you suggest 2 250watt bulbs or something different?  <way too much light unless you are keeping the most delicate/difficult and demanding shallow water species. If instead you are happy with hardier Montipora species and common Acroporas (brown, green, tan with some colored tips) then you will be safer and happier with 2-3 175 watt lamps (10K Ushio or AB recommended if not 3-150 watt 6500 k lamps). Your tank isn't deep enough to warrant 250 watt lamps for fear of bleaching any LPS and soft coral you may want to keep as well> Do I need to supplement with fluorescents or is the metal halides more than enough?  <more than enough blue in the MH lamps... add only for your aesthetics> Do I need to hang it from the ceiling or rest it on a canopy?  <better light from a horizontal mount in a canopy... pendants focus/waster light> All and extra info is appreciated. <best regards, my friend... Anthony Calfo>

Lighting Questions I have asked around about lighting for my 75gal soon to be reef with very few sps, a clam, an anemone, and a few soft corals with small fishes like clowns and cardinals and so forth. When I do decide to go reef I must upgrade to MH, pc, or VHO. People say MH is too much heat and pc does not have actinic bulbs so go with icecap VHO's which is what I plan to do? Do you agree? <Not really. I like VHO's for some applications, but for clams and SPS I would recommend MH's.> Will VHO's give me enough for them? <You will need at least four, but may not be enough light for all and not cost effective, replacing four lamps every 6-9 months versus a MH's every year.> Do you suggest a canopy with VHO's? <Sure> What is the difference between a retrofit and a hood? <A retrofit is something to insert into an existing canopy. A hood is a complete lighting system already mounted.> I already have a 48" long full hood made by all-glass. Can it fit? <Possibly, measure inside to be sure. You need to factor in length of lamps plus end caps.> Lastly, which model do you suggest for me? <Icecap 660 for VHO's> Any and all additional info on the topic is greatly appreciated. Thanks a lot <I would seriously consider MH's. Two 175 watt Aqualine-Buschke lamps would be very good for your 75 housing SPS and clams. -Steven Pro>

VHO & MH <Anthony> Hey Anthony! I just thought I would let you know that I got my dual 175watt MH and 110watt VHO up today. It look amazing!! <outstanding!> I have the spider reflectors with the MH bulbs (so easy to install, full of quick connects and little power tool use) and the VHO bulbs below.  <good to hear... many folks are reassured by this> The only problem is that my VHO is rather low. Like about 4" above the water.  <not a problem at all!!! On the contrary, some folks would argue that 4" is actually still too far off of the water for fluorescents. I personally would not go any farther away. A luxmeter would put this all in perspective for you... fluorescent light intensity is not focused and is significantly reduced as you move even slightly higher up> The spider reflector comes down about 5" and my canopy is 10". How often would you advice my wiping down the VHO bulbs? I am thinking salt creep can be a problem with them being close to the water.  <really only a problem if you have snapping bubbles and hopefully you won't have too much if that (bubbles irritate some corals)> Would once or twice a month do?  <sounds reasonable...we'll just have to see what it takes after setup to keep them always clean> I do my water change twice a month, and often times I get lazy so it is more often just once a month so I thought that it might be good to do as part of my monthly to-do's. <exactly!> Just want to let you know how it turned out and to thank you once again. I will be using a refractor meter this weekend to see if the VHO bulbs disturb the MH, but I think it won't be anything to worry about. Sincerely, Robert <we appreciate the update my friend and will pass it along to others for consideration/reassurance. Thanks kindly, Anthony>

Lighting Yet another lighting question. I have a 120 gallon tank. The water is 24" deep and it is currently a FOWLR. After much research I think have decided to go with compact fluorescent. I must say it is not easy to make a decision in this area. Money seems to be a limiting factor. I would someday like to have sps and clams. I know that these are light loving creatures. For now am I better off going with 4-55W compacts and adding more later or should I start out with 2-96W compacts and add on to that. Or should I go with some other type of lighting all together. Thank you. <For SPS and clams in a 120 wide, you will need four 96 watt PC lamps. Complete hoods that hold these cost about $500. Or you could use two 175 watt MH pendant fixtures with Aqualine-Buschke lamp upgrades for about $520. With the initial costs being fairly similar, the cost of replacement lamps also similar (two at $90 each versus four at $45 each, prices from Champion Lighting & Supply), I would prefer the MH's. I think you would get better results (growth, color, etc.) and a slight saving in electricity. -Steven Pro><<... the new math? Add 'em up again Steve. RMF... 192 vs. 350 watts...>>

Lighting Mr. Fenner, <Steven pro this afternoon.> Currently, I have a 40-gallon reef with an assortment of corals including torch, frogspawn, Goniopora, colt, galaxy, with a few different polyps as well. I am going to be moving the system from the 40-gallon to my new 75-gallon (which is empty right now). My corals are absolutely flourishing, and I would like to keep it this way (obviously). My lighting at this time includes a 36" blue actinic and a 120w power compact. But, as you are well aware, the 75-gallon is 4" taller. My question: what type of lighting do you recommend for my 75-gallon in order to emulate the current lighting in my 40-gallon? If I use 3"+ of substrate, can I use a power compact (300w)? This would be 4 watts per gallon. Or, do you think it is still too deep, and would require metal halides (possibly two 175w, 10,000K)? As is always the case, I'm trying to keep costs down. I'm at a fork-in-the-road, and I'm not sure what to do. -Sam <For your corals, MH's are not necessary. PC lighting will work just fine. I think you wish to use 6 55 watt PC lamps for a total of 330 watts or maybe 3 96 watt lamps? Either should be just fine. You may also wish to consider VHO's. Three 110 watt lamps would be good, too. -Steven Pro>

Question of Marine Lights Hi Bob, <Steven Pro this morning.> I am planning to set up a marine tank. I have been reading around and am currently deliberating on whether to include a MH in my lighting arrangement. My tank will be a 72" x 30" x 30". Bottom substrate will be about 6" deep (so effective water depth is only 24") and I am planning (or maybe "dreaming" will be a better word) on putting some green star polyps right on the substrate. I read that green star polyp need good light and current. My question is do I need a MH lamp for this setup? I am worried about the amount of light penetrating down to the substrate. The LFS is pushing me for MH, which I suspect is heavily motivated by their price tags. Locally I can easily get 30" ballast for 2 PC tubes, each PC tubes is rated 36W, and available in 72000K and 11000K spectrums. Since each PC ballast cost less than 10% of the MH, I would rather go for a few PC ballasts *IF* MH is not needed. What do you think? <I think your best solution is the MH's because of your tank depth and width. Three 175 watt or three 250 watt 10,000k Aqualine-Buschke lamps would work well depending on your other desired photosynthetic creatures.> Thanks in advance & BTW I must tell you that your contributions at WWM forums is a godsend. -Edwin <Thank you, Steven Pro.>

This is driving me mad! Marine Lighting Choices Hello Mr. Fenner, How I wish you could have a reef aquarium book out! <Am hopeful to have this work out someday soon as well> I have learned so much about my initial setup and which fish to choose from TCMA. How to properly care for them, and the tank it's self. I am just going crazy when it comes to coral and there needs. I have been to many web site, have many books that I have read and am currently reading. Nothing is helping me when it comes to lighting my tank. 48x18x22 and a 10" hood. I have been on many message boards (just discovered yours) asking people what sort of light I would need to keep SPS & clams but that would not fry my bubble corals and open brains. And what other few LPS I want to get. I asked EricB., Dr. Ron, and many people on reef central, reefs.org, my LFS, my reefing friends and looking through books. Everyone (9-10) is advising me to get (EricB. and most of the people on the message boards) 2x250 watt MH with 2x110 watt VHO. There are people who have kept LPS under these lights (same height) for years and have good growth and color. Would it be a good amount of light or to much?  <Too much for me... If you were doing an experiment in "the absolute most" growth you could get from photosynthesizing marine life... and coupled a calcium reactor, likely controllers, careful feeding... then I might go with this much light intensity... But... if it were me I'd drop to 175 Watt MH's and half the actinics in VHOs or better PCs...> They said (and I see the logic) that as long as my LPS are near to the DSB and that my lights are raised so far above the waters surface I will be ok. This is killing me. I would love to know your opinion. I read through your Q&A and in one post you said that for a tank that is 23" tall the 2x250 would work best. <Yes... but with your raised sand bed, your water level will be 17-18"> Then in another post for someone who had a 23" tall tank you said it would be best to use 175 watt MH with VHO actinics. I could really use you knowledge. Thank you kindly! Robert <I'll go for what's behind door/choice number 2! Be chatting. Bob F>

This is driving me mad! Marine Lighting (Anthony's turn) Hello Mr. Fenner, <Anthony Calfo in your service> How I wish you could have a reef aquarium book out!  <I wondered that for years until I learned that he did indeed write a "Conscientious Reef Aquarist" book that got bought but never printed by the publisher... no worries though... Bob has been furiously generating and cataloguing a lot of such information on this WWM site... typing on two and three computers at the same time... well, almost <wink>> I have learned so much about my initial setup and which fish to choose from TCMA. How to properly care for them, and the tank it's self. I am just going crazy when it comes to coral and there needs. I have been to many web site, have many books that I have read and am currently reading.  <OK... shameless plug for my new reef book... see Bob's review on this site  http://www.wetwebmedia.com/bkcorlproprev.htm or my site for samples/endorsements (www.readingtrees.com). Really, have I no shame ?! But seriously, I put a lot of heart into it and it is written in a very straight-forward conversational tone. A good bit of info if I may say so too at 450 pages> Nothing is helping me when it comes to lighting my tank. 48x18x22 and a 10" hood. I have been on many message boards (just discovered yours) asking people what sort of light I would need to keep SPS & clams but that would not fry my bubble corals and open brains.  <that is indeed a tough and unnatural mix...never to be found on a reef and long term may prove to be difficult for you without some very creative (and attractive) rockscaping to create ledges and overhangs for diffusing light for the deepwater LPS corals and Zoantharians for example> And what other few LPS I want to get. I asked Erick B., Dr. Ron, and many people on reef central, reefs.org, my LFS, my reefing friends and looking through books. Everyone (9-10)is advising me to get (Erick B. and most of the people on the message boards) 2x250 watt MH with 2x110 watt VHO. There are people who have kept LPS under these lights (same height) for years and have good growth and color. Would it be a good amount of light or to much?  <I'm inclined to say too much. Truthfully, my advice would be to pick one thing and do it well... spare the unnatural allelopathy and aggression of this unusual mix. Just because it works for some folks for even a couple of years doesn't make it right, convenient or even replicable by you. The natural lifespan of many coral is to be measured in decades... and that will be a moot point in a crowded or inappropriate reef tank> They said (and I see the logic) that as long as my LPS are near to the DSB and that my lights are raised so far above the waters surface I will be ok. This is killing me. I would love to know your opinion. <you definitely have a different perspective from me. Keep in mind that my opinion and experience is influenced by my vocation as a commercial coral farmer with regard for absolute parameters of health and especially growth (without concern for aesthetic presentation). You may be willing to compromise growth and lifespan to enjoy a mixed garden reef aquarium. It was my business to avoid that. Both positions are valid but at some point we must concede that some compromises do not serve the greater good> I read through your Q&A and in one post you said that for a tank that is 23" tall the 2x250 would work best. Then in another post for someone who had a 23" tall tank you said it would be best to use 175 watt MH with VHO actinics. I could really use you knowledge. Thank you kindly! <ultimately... my advice would be to only use 2-250 watt halides if you intend to have your tank decidedly dominated by shallow water SPS corals and clams with very few mid to low light animals. Else, you will find yourself spending too much on electricity for animals suffering under it. The VHO supplements are an entirely different matter. Although love the color of VHO's, spectral analysis of most every halide on the market has demonstrated that the lamps already have excessive blue peaks in the spectrum. More blue light is pointless for coral health and simply makes a very nice aesthetic affect when the halides are off. Do look into the published works of Sanjay Yoshi and Dana Riddle on halide lighting. Short story though... Aqualine and Ushio 10K bulbs are highly recommended among lamp choices. And if you can use the 150 watt fixtures... Iwasaki 6500 k bulbs are the absolute best all things considered (lamp life, spectral sway, color rendition, etc). And remember...easy on the blue lights if you intend to keep shallow water sps corals. Kind regards, Anthony Calfo> Robert

Re: This is driving me mad! <Anthony> Marine Lighting Choices  Hello again Anthony <greetings, my friend> I went to your web site and checked out your book. I will place an order in for it tomorrow.  <thank you kindly... but the advice is free, do ask away!> I am now more confused then ever and am in need for some more guidance. I had no idea that mixing coral like LPS & SPS (as I have seen in so many tanks) is such a major mistake for the health of the coral.  <this is news to most of us as aquarists. Only in the last decade have we begun to see enough aquariums set up for extended periods of time (5-10+ yrs) to have a glimpse of what the long term effects of coral aggression might be. Reefkeeping really only began to draw attention in popular literature in the mid 1980's and arguably did not begin to really catch fire until the early 1990's. So even by 1995, let's say, there were still very few tanks set up for more than five years. Now enough time has begun to pass here in the USA that we have more than a few aquarium displays to look to that are documented for more than a decade.> I don't want a pretty tank and then a year or two later have everything die on me.  <yes... a reality for many aquarists as a couple of years go by in a crowded or inappropriate tank and the flaws catch up (mysterious deaths from slowly underfed coral and those poisoned by competitors). But let me assure you that although I do indeed have somewhat of a purist/hardliner approach to reef aquariology, I readily admit that you can indeed enjoy a mixture of so-called "unnatural" tank mates like LPS and SPS in very good health. Its just that we cannot be lulled into thinking its a free for all. All in moderation, of course.> I am not a cruel man, just ignorant and trying to learn.  <as we all are everyday> I didn't mean to come of as if I am willing to risk the health of my charges. <not at all... as aquarists we are indeed empathetic and passionate folk. And your quest for knowledge reflects your good intent as it should be> Now having reconsidered much I will ask if it would be acceptable to mix LPS with calms. I am quite enamored with the electric blue Max's. <there will be a compatible combination for almost anything that you like... Tridacnids occur in very shallow water to depths below 45 feet (well below that for some, as I understand it). If you elect to have a shallow reef theme, then enjoy the blue T. crocea and T. maxima. If you opt for a deeper themed tank (LPS like bubbles, fox, purple tip elegance, brown hammers/octopus, red open brains, Cynarina buttons, etc) then the hardy T. derasa or better yet Hippopus species of clams would do nicely> Could I keep them (on the sand bed) under 2x175 watt with say..2x100w VHO actinics?  <most clams indeed yes> Or would the blue light do nothing for the clams.  <right...the intense halides are the ticket> I would like a good amount of blue so that my LPS can fluoresce more. is that wrong as well? :) <not wrong at all my friend... just an aesthetic preference. But there is more than enough blue in modern halide lamps to satisfy your coral. Keep yourself happy by having a strong VHO blue actinic or two on a separate ballast for the lovely fluorescent effect (even leaving them on an hour before and after the daylights to give a cool dusk dawn effect)... but don't expect them to contribute much to coral growth without daylight. They are to be enjoyed for aesthetics. Although 250 watt halides may be appropriate for the colorful sps corals that you think you might like to have...such species are really are a great challenge for a new aquarist until you get the hang of the calcium/alkalinity dynamic and how to control it with consistency (other issues to). As a "newbie"... you'll have a much better start with hardy and colorful soft corals. They are much more forgiving in general. I'd suggest that you pick two 175 watt Ushio 10K lamps or two 150 watt Iwasaki 6500K lamps to serve as your primary lighting. Trust me my friend... for reasons that will be revealed to you in due time, resist all stony coral (SPS and LPS) for at least the first six months if not one year. Plenty of great soft corals that will serve you well through your growing pains> Thank you kindly Anthony. I hope you can forgive this silly newbie! Robert <nothing to forgive at all, good sir. I'm grateful that you are considerate of your future charges enough to ask questions and that you care to know my opinion at all. Also, do look into a local aquarium society too... its a great place to get honest advice from experienced folk who have nothing to sell you <wink>. Kindly, Anthony>

Re: This is driving me mad! Marine Lighting Choices  Hello again Mr. Fenner Thank you so much for the quick reply, not only by yourself but from Anthony as well. I can't wait for your reef book to come out! It is a good thing that you have such a informative web site to go to for those like me who are waiting for your book. <A great outlet, device, tool> I learned much from your response. I am rethinking my plan and will downgrade from my original idea (2x250wMH) and maybe go with 2x175..the actinics and their wattage are still up in the air. I thought 2x110VHO but I am guessing that will be an overkill. <Yes, more than necessary, useful> I just want my LPS to fluoresce really well and have enough light for all kinds of clams. I will do more research. :) Thank you kindly. Robert <Be chatting. Bob Fenner>

Lunar lighting <Anthony?> Hey WWM Crew! I am hoping to speak with Anthony about a point that was made in his book about lunar lighting. <I have never tried illuminating the moon but I'm willing to try> I am in a quandary about how to simulate moonlight or the sun/moon cycle in my tank. I do believe that it makes a difference for the positive to do this in a reef tank. <yes... I agree. Some researchers down in Texas believe they can influence spawning cycles in part by this. It may nit be a huge influence... but is very cool aesthetically if nothing else> I have found many products online. The Aquacontroller II sounds sweet yes I have the money.. heehee I have my reef emergency fund and general mad-money stash) and something called the moon strip http://www.petsolutions.com/cgi-bin/cgiitmls?m=ThisP&p=1048.140000&l=1 Here is a link to that. I also have found this device http://www.fishtankshop.com/catalog/default.php?cPath=2_13_19 Called moon beams. I wonder what matters more, the cycle of the moon across the tank? The monthly/yearly cycle? Or the style of lighting penetrating the tank? I hope that makes sense. <yes... I think. I think the most important factor is the rhythmic attenuation (quarter, then half, then 3/4, the full moon and then waning again)> I know you recommend a blue bulb moved across the tank as a cheep alternative,  <not moved necessarily, just waxing and waning> but I wonder would you could recommend if it were carte blanch. :) <the moon strip does not say that it is automated... it sounds like it is literally a $179.00 actinic light bulb that can be dimmed (?!?). Yes, it states that the spectrum does not sway with dimming, but big deal. Who said that the moon only imparts a light wavelength of 484nm? It may be a fine product, but I don't think it is necessary. Now the moon beams for $79.00... I saw them at the MMC conference in Michigan a couple of weeks ago. Looked interesting, but again... still needs attenuation. Still an overpriced light bulb. Until someone proves that fish/coral respond to a specific type of simulated moonlight (484nm, blue LED, whatever) I'm content with the understanding that reef animals respond predominantly to the waxing and waning of a weak nocturnal lamp and that means that a $2 blue party bulb in a book lamp plugged into an $8 dimmer switch is good enough for me. As cool as I think the idea is... moonlight may not be a tremendous stimulus. There are much better ways to get fish/coral to breed (like HUFA rich foods coincident with an appropriate photoperiod from their natural habitat (like springtime on the GBR)> Thanks!! <always welcome, Anthony>

MH vs. PC Hi Bob: I recently purchased a house :) and am finding out that I have larger bills to pay, <Maybe only in the (annual) short term. Do see your tax accountant re your withholding, other possible sources of "not-paying"... i.e. taxes> including utility :( In contemplating options to reduce energy consumption, the focus naturally comes to the reef tank lighting system.  <Yes. Often largest electrical consuming item> I currently use two 175w 12000K Sunburst MHs over my 60g tank (which would be upgraded to either a 91g or a 120g, pending the recovery of the economy), and all sorts of water/air cooling accessories. I understand that PC would lower all costs considerably, but switching from MH to PC does require extra investment (bulbs, ballasts, sockets, bulb holders, etc.) <Yes to all. Well-stated> , I would like to know how long before I can recover this investment. <Hmm, pretty simple mathematical equation... Watts consumed are charged by kwh (kilowatt-hour)... for instance you have 2 X 175 Watt MH's now... Versus the same multiplication for the proposed CFs plus their upfront cost, and a factor for the relative replacement of lamps, fixtures going forward...> Do you know where I can find updated, and preferably detailed, information about operating cost differences between MH and PC of the same wattage, for example, 2x175w MHs vs. 4x96w PCs? <If "wattage" (actually consumed) is about the same, then cost of electrical operation is about the same... minus costs of running cooling gear, and factoring in (once again) the relative costs of replacement, purchase...> All the articles that I have found are either outdated (2+ years old), dealing with the same lighting type (MH vs. MH, etc.), or merely stating the advantages of PC over MH on the very high level, for example, lower operating cost, temperature, etc. While this easily help a new hobbyist determine the type of lighting he/she needs, it does not assist me in making the right decision. Thanks. Chia <For many, probably most applications, the "cost/benefit" in making these switches is made up in a few years (2-3)... But, you can "do the math" here as well. Bob Fenner>

Lighting Question Hello Bob, and thanks in advance for your help! You are providing an awesome service that is very much appreciated!! <Very glad to hear, understand this> My question is fairly basic. I am in the process of setting up a new 100 gal (60"Lx18"Wx20"H) saltwater tank FOWLR (and invertebrates such as 1-2 anemones, stars, urchins, shrimps) NOT planning on keeping any hard or soft corals or clams. I have been reading information on this and other sites as well as talking to my LFS personnel however still feel a little confused on one or two points. <Easily done...> Specifically, my question is around lighting. I am trying to decide between VHO lighting and Power Compacts. I have read that PC's offer more Lux per watt when compared to other technologies including VHO.  <Yes, this is so> The example used was that a 55 watt Compact bulb is roughly as bright as a 95 watt VHO tube. If this is true, does the 3-5 watts per gallon "rule of thumb" still apply, or does it become some lesser number if PC's are used.  <Less for the "same, equivalent" use...> Considering what I am interested in keeping, which would yield the best results, a 420 watt VHO system (3-140 w bulbs) or a 220 watt PC system (w/ 4-55 w bulbs). Based on my price-related research, either of these two systems could be had for roughly $300 each which fits my budget. <Ah, sounds like you've been doing your research, shopping. These two choices/alternatives are close in terms of initial cost, and function... so close that the esthetic part of the equation (what looks better to you) becomes a deciding factor between the two. I am actually more inclined to the compact fluorescents here due to the depth of the tank... but would easily go with the VHOs if this were a planted aquarium (freshwater) or one that no high-light intensity life was intended for (e.g. the anemones)> My other question is with regard to the length of the lighting. Very simply, is it necessary to cover the full 60 inches (i.e., VHO) or would a 48 inch bulbs/fixtures (i.e., Power Compact) be sufficient? <The four footers are fine... in my opinion/experience better to have the "brightness" dropping off at the edge/s of systems. Bob Fenner> Calvin

Re: Marine lighting Sorry to bother you so much, but for a 180 would you recommend 3 175 or 250 MH with supplemental VHO over 6x96 pc's? <Hmm, is this your "first time out" with a reef system? If you're tending to high-light intensity users like many SPS corals, tridacnid clams, the three 175 watt metal halides with actinic VHO's would be my choice... but if not, and/or if this is going to be a "starter system" for you, the power compacts will more than do...> This has been the hardest and most confusing part of planning this setup. Is the electricity bill really that much more? <Not "that much" in the stated case... you can easily calculate the proposed wattage consumed, lamp replacement, initial costs comparison> FWIW the light will be going over an acrylic tank with a 29 gal sump so would I need a chiller also? Buying a chiller is what I am trying to avoid. <You might well find you need a chiller going with the 175 W MH's... definitely 250 watt units... Do please read over the many FAQs stored on our site re marine lighting... starting here: http://wetwebmedia.com/morefaqsmarsyslgtg.htm Bob Fenner> Greg

Upgrading reef lighting. Hi Bob. Thank God for your website! I live out in the woods of Michigan and there are no good LFS anywhere. I went to Grand Cayman about 3 weeks ago for a week of dives in hopes to solve my reef lighting dilemma. <Oh ho!> If anything, I confused myself even more. The light at 30-40ft depth seemed awful dim on a bright sunny day with about 90-100 ft. visibility.  <It is... relatively> So I thought to myself I didn't need anymore light. <Mmm, an artifact of our subjective reality... our eyes are amazing tools/devices for "auto-dimming"...> But I know it's not enough. A bit about my setup: 90 gal.(48Lx18Wx24H) display, 200lbs. LR. 72 gal sump and 75 gal refugium. I have had great success (believe it or not) with my single 10k 250W MH Light for the past 5 years. <I believe it> About a year ago I started to collect SPS and clams, but I had to put them at the very top of the water column for them to do well. Now I want to spread them out over my whole tank, so Santa Clause (my girlfriend) is going to bring me some reef lighting! I was looking at two different units. <You lucky pug> CSL PC 4-96W 2-6700k Daylight bulbs and 2-7100k Blue Or CSL PC 4-65W with the same bulbs as above. My livestock is: SPS, Max Clams, a couple of Anemones, LPS, and a bunch of mushrooms. Here is/are my question(s) is the 4-96W with my 250W MH too much light?  <No... this would be my choice> Is it better to go with the 4-65W and a 250W MH?  <Oh! Even better... for looks, function> or Possibly two MH and 4-65W? <You'd likely have to fit a chiller into your budget... I would likely "center" the one MH... or if it looked better, move it over to the left or right...> With my 10k 250MH witch bulbs would you choose? I only want to buy new lights once. So any advice you have would be worth gold. <Mmm, a tough one... the Iwasaki likely> Hope to run into you in Fiji in June '02 <Sounds great. Stay tuned and perhaps our itineraries can be organized to do this! Bob Fenner> Warmest Regards, Brad Stefanko

Re: Upgrading reef lighting. Thanks for your help with my reef lighting problem. I took your advice and I will go with the CSL 4-65W unit with my current 250W MH. <Think this will be best> Now is the CSL set up better for Clams and SPS than say 4-24in. VHO IceCap set up with my 250W MH? <Both are worthy units... quite similar... the Custom SeaLife units incrementally better. Bob Fenner> Thank again! :) Brad

Lighting for a Marine Fish Set Up - normal output fluorescent T8 bulb lig... A little about lighting options. I have narrowed my lighting options for the main tank to normal output (NO) fluorescent bulbs and power compact (PC) bulbs. I know that you really like the PC bulbs, but I am wondering if can get away with the less expensive NO bulbs given the fact that the main tank will focus on fish.  <Absolutely. Whatever intensity and looks will suit you will be fine with your fishes... Do get/use timers for the lighting as regularity of light/dark cycles is important.> NO lighting. The T8 bulbs by Sylvania and ZooMed look interesting to me, for their greater energy efficiency than T12 bulbs and low cost. I was thinking that I could illuminate the 125 to 150 gallon tank with two 48" 5500K or 6000K bulbs, two 10,000K bulbs, and two 48" Actinic bulbs. At 36 watts per bulb, this arrangement would provide a total of 216 watts for an affordable initial outlay and low replacement costs. This arrangement might also provide a wide spectral variation for the overall tank look. <I'd leave out the actinics... the "blue" is not of use, nor attractive for your setting, IMO... and do look into the Sylvania Chroma lamps at Home Depot, Lowe's...> Power compact lighting. In a previous email message, you suggested looking into CustomSeaLife PC set-ups. After looking at some pricing information for PC bulbs, I thought that I would light the tank with two 96 watt 8800K bulbs and two 55 watt actinic bulbs, which would provide a total of 302 watts of light. This set-up would provide more wattage than the T8 bulb set-up discussed above, but I don't know if the quality of light would be better (in terms of spectrum) and the replacement cost is much higher per year (about $170 for the PC compared to $72 for the T8 bulbs). <If it were me, and I were choosing between these two, and would not be using much live rock... and no plans for other purposeful photosynthetic life, I'd go with the T8s> Now a few questions.  1. Would the fish be healthier with more light in the main tank (e.g., for pineal gland stimulation) than provided by the T8 bulbs?  <Not really... and the added algae problems from the increased intensity contraindicate more light> 2. What do you think of the Sylvania and ZooMed T8 bulbs? Do either of them put out good quality light? Is the quality of light put out by these T8 bulbs comparable to the quality of light put out by PC bulbs? <Quality? Yes, quite similar... the mechanism of production is just different... less expensive per unit PAR (photosynthetically active radiation) with CF...> 3. Would you recommend any other bulb arrangement over the ones I discussed above for a short and squat 125 to 150 gallon main tank that focuses on fish? <Yes. Just something in the 5,500 K temp, 92+CRI... and lowest otherwise cost of acquisition, install and operation... better to spend more on ballasting (electronic) than get too involved with lamp types... Bob Fenner> Thank you again. Bruce Grant

Marine lighting You may have answered some of these question before but I just ran across your web site and I have a question I would like your opinion on. I have read so much about all the different lightings and I guess there are many ways to go but I am going to set up a 36X18 Tank for a reef tank. Approx 50 gallons. My choices are the following:  which is best? 1-MH 175 W , 2- 30W actinic 1-MH 175W, 2 PC actinic All PC lighting. I am still confused on which would be the best lighting. I am just not convinced all Power compact is best. I was planning on having 2 fans in the hood about 8 inches from the top. I would very much like to hear what you think. Thanks very much. Dennis >> The "best" functionally (IMO of course), are the all-PC.... the most light of useful wavelengths for the lowest per unit cost (fixtures, lamps, replacement, electricity...), but in terms of looks... as in "beauty is in the eye"... you might prefer some, all metal halide...  To the organisms you intend to keep, and what you hope to do with them (boosting growth let's say), more intensity, wattage of either lighting format is warranted... I'm sure you start to understand the distinction between form and function, economics, and esthetics. Bob Fenner

Reef Lighting I am preparing to set up a 220 gallon reef aquarium. The tank is 84"x24"x24". I wish to avoid halide lights. I was looking at VHOs, but all I read says CFs are better.  <Yes. They are> Then I read about the SmartLamp from Custom Sea Life.  <Hmm, these are types of CFs, Compact Fluorescents.> Would you recommend a CF with 6-96 watt bulbs (72x12x4) or 2 (or 3) SmartLamps (72x6x4 each) with 2-96 watt bulbs each? I wish to leave open the types of coral I can keep. Any recommendations would be greatly appreciated. Thanks, Alvin <The latter choice is superior... and you can add another fixture or two depending on the look you want to achieve or should you move up to more high light intensity livestock going forward. Bob Fenner>

Re: lighting Thanks Bob! The 125 is 6' long, and the 4X96 combo has 4 36" bulbs. So over the tank would be 2 lights per half of the tank. If I swapped out only one of the bulbs and had 3 white and 1 actinic, one half of the tank would have 1 white and 1 actinic, and the other half would have 2 white lamps. How would this effect the tank as far as looks, growth, effectiveness, etc?  <I would opt for the six lamp set-up... as previously stated... with two actinics side by side to the back... otherwise... if you had to use four three foot fixtures/lamps I would put two whites side by side to the front... one and the actinic centered in the middle behind them... Would be brighter in the middle... and would center more of the photosynthetic organisms toward the middle...> I think there are only 2 cords for this set-up (one per 2 lamps), so I wouldn't be able to turn the actinic on before, and off after, the white lamps. It looks like the 6X96 will be the best bet. <Ah, yes!> I appreciate the help! Jason <Be chatting. Bob Fenner>

55 Gal - MH or PC lighting? Dear Bob, I loved reading TCMA! Your book has encouraged me to rise to the challenges of marine/reef keeping; an endeavor I think I'll find be even more rewarding than the freshwater system I currently maintain. I'm a big DIY-er, and I would like to tackle marine system lighting issues with your expert guidance. <Am sure you can do this... that is, DIY gear... The state of development of the hobby is not that far ahead of what we all can do given investigation, patience and application> Presently, I'm looking to light two new marine tanks: 20 High [24"x12"x16"] & 55 Gal [48"x12"x21"]. The tanks will share a common water supply: 20 High + 55 Gal + 15 Gal Sump = 90 Gallons total, so as to help stabilize water characteristics and take advantage of common in-sump skimming. I'm looking to keep SPS and clams in both tanks, and I've read a lot on the Internet about the pro's and con's of MH vs. PC lighting. Which of these options (presented below) would you recommend for the 55 Gallon? This particular tank size seems to be "right on the edge" with regard to depth-of-tank, in choosing between Combo-MH/PC lighting vs. All-PC lighting. ** Options for the 55 Gallon ** #1) 250W 6,500K Iwasaki MH (8 to 12" above water surface) & two 55W PC Actinic blues, OR #2) 3 x 96W 10,000K PC & one 96W PC Actinic blue. I'm concerned I might "burn" some species with option #1. However, if safe in your opinion, #1 would provide me with the MH "shimmering light" effect I'd like to enjoy. <#1 will indeed "do this", though #2 would be/is my choice> I am aware of the MH water-overheating issues, and as a DIY-er have no problem w/installing the required cooling fans. Installing a cooler, however, is something I'd like to avoid. I guess I'd offset the MH to the left, so as not to melt the top-center support brace of the 55 Gallon tank (Have you hear of this type of melting happening before?)  <Yes> Would off-setting like this cause a big light distribution problem across the tank?  <No... perhaps to the "calloused eye" who has seen evenly illuminated systems only...> Uneven light distribution could be of some benefit to mobile aquatic life, so they can move to their preferred light intensity (Yes/No?).  <The mobile invertebrates, fishes, yes> If I offset the MH to the left, should I shift the two actinic blues all the way to the right, or stagger as usual (one front right & one back left)? <Space these evenly> ** For the 20 High ** 2 x 55W 10,000K PC & one 55W PC Actinic blue Is this combination for the 20 High adequate for SPS and clams? <Yes> Much thanks and gratitude in advance for your help! :) -Russ <And for your participation, input. Bob Fenner>

Lighting dilemma 11-19-05 Hello and many thanks to you pros sharing your time to help out us struggling aquarists. <<We what...?>> <Welcome> Wanting to get into SPS and better growth out of my Zoas, I thought about switching to metal halide. It seems I've acquired a lot of lighting equipment from friends, raffles and mis- educated purchases. <That sounds familiar...> I currently have a 55 gallon reef setup 48 long-24 deep-12-wide light up with a 265watt pc( 2-65watt-10k and 2-65watt-aquatinic). In my possession I have 1-175 watt electronic ballast with a 12k Sunburst bulb , a dual PFO 400 watt ballast with 10k bulbs and a 250 watt electronic ballast no bulb atm. <Hmm, interesting mix.> Well I was wondering if I switch to a MH set up what would be the best configuration? <With SPS I usually suggest you buy as much light as you can afford. In this case, you will be limited by your tank size and the heat from metal halides.>

Would mounting a single 400 watt 10k in the center of the tank maybe a little higher than usual, say 20in, do the trick or? would the lighting be too much for my mainly soft coral setup? <It will be too much for your tank. 55 gallon tanks have a plastic center brace that will melt under a halide. You will definitely need a 2 bulb set-up.> Attached are some pics of my setup and corals if it might help finding the answer to my dilemma. <<No photos found - where be the photos, Travis? MH  Ah, found them in the 'deleted' folder...>> <I believe a dual 175 watt set-up would be more than enough light and will have lower heat for you, but you could also get by with dual 250's (with an extra fan) and maybe pick up some extra SPS coloration. The higher intensity lighting will keep some softies and zoos from expanding as large as they used to. That is due to the fact that they do not need as much surface area to catch light rays for the photosynthetic algae. As a side note, those 65 watt pc's would make great actinic additions to any metal halide combo you decide on.> Thanks for your time,  Ken Logsdon <You're welcome. Travis>

PC vs. VHO vs. MH & PC  9/1/05 Love the site! I read different articles all the time, but I could not find my question.  I have a 37 gal reef tank that is about 3 weeks old.  I have about 40 pounds of LR with no coral just a few damsels.  I have everything setup and running great but the lights.  I have researched many different options but just don't know which one to go with.  I want to keep my options open as far as corals and anemones maybe even a clam not likely though.  I am looking into 3 different light setups: 1) 2 - 65W PC = 130W  cost about $120 2) 4 - 75W VHO = 300W  cost about $240 3) 150W metal halide, 2 - 65W PC = 280W  cost about $360 So what is the best setup for the cost and widest range of possibilities, and what is the best bulb selection (light temp and actinic) for that setup? And if there is a better setup out there that you know of please let me know.   <... depends on the type of life you intend to keep... and what you want to do with it/them... If you end up with SPS and Tridacnids for instance, the MH would be best... for just sustaining most LPS... PC's... Bob Fenner> Just how "not important" is lighting not important to saltwater fish only setup? 7/7/05 Hi WWM crew, First of all i would like to THANK YOU all WWM crew members for being such a great help for all my aquarium problems. I can't think of another better place that helps me so much! THANKS!! <Welcome> Sorry for the long story i tried my best to make it short already. People had always told me that lighting is not important at all in a saltwater fish only with live rock tank. Some of them even say that the fishes actually don't need any light at all, and the light is just for my own viewing pleasure. <Mostly so> I used to have a 136W compact fluorescent lighting system for my 45G tank. It broke down after about 2 months. I didn't have much money with me at that time for me to purchase another compact fluorescent and since people said lighting is not an issue so i used a incandescent hood from my previous 10G tank which only has two 30W mini fluorescent bulbs I'm not even sure if those bulbs are truly fluorescent). <If not... then what?> Those two bulbs barely light up the tank. However, ever since my compact system was gone, my tank has been going down hill. First my Regal tang got ich and died, then my yellow tang and two ocellaris clown died mysteriously, then my totally healthy well eating Moorish Idol died with white patches on his body, <Rarely live... and a 45 is too small...> and then most fish i added after that disaster just keep dying without obvious reasons. <Not likely related> It just seems so strange to me, the first two months my tank was running perfectly, and then the lighting broke down, and from that moment on my tank has been a constant nightmare. Fish dies easily, with no problem in water chemistry) all the fish keeps hiding, all the fishes are always scared. Could there be even a slight chance that the lighting has anything to do with it?? <Mmm, perhaps indirectly... some lighting helps promote algae growth... algae help to absorb nutrients, make overall environment more stable, provide some food...> Could it be that the fishes always think it is night time so they always hide? <No... get "clues" re day from outside light> I have this theory because i once notice my Moorish Idol had different color pattern in day time and night time. And after the compact system broke down, it never fully change back into day time pattern even in the day. However, i think i should mention that even with so little lighting, i can still see clearly into the tank in daytime since the room the tank is in is quite bright in the day. <Bingo> That is why I can't convince myself that the fish is thinking it is night time. But they somehow act like it is night time, especially that Moorish Idol incident i mentioned above. <Please read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/idolfaqs.htm Thanks any opinion would be much appreciated! <I would get a better lighting set-up, study re your livestock choices ahead of purchasing. Bob Fenner>

Protein skimmer & Lighting Hi,  <Hi, Natalie... Anthony Calfo here. I must say that you have a beautiful name. My niece and Godchild share it with you> I just started a 55 gal salt water tank. It now has 3 damsels, a brittle starfish, and an Atlantic Anemone.  <do resist anemones if you want coral... a tough mix as motile anemones bring their stinging tentacles on the road to wreak havoc in the tank> I have about 15lbs or live rock, working on buying more.  <the best investment for a marine aquarium> I just added the starfish and the anemone. It will eventually become a reef tank. I need a protein skimmer. Could you give me a few suggestions that are good but also are at a reasonable price? I am short on money right now, but I need one now, right?  <as soon as possible, but not at the expense of buying an inferior model. Compensate by low stocking/feeding and extra water changes in the meantime. Do look at CPR Bak Paks, Turboflotors, EuroReef Skimmers, Aqua C. Some mail order places on the net like Custom Aquatic have quite competitive prices> I am going to add fish, algae eaters, and invertebrates slowly. <slower the better, yes> I would also like to know a couple of things about lights. I have a two lids making the top of my aquarium. The original lights are what I am using now (15w each). First, what type and number of wattage do you suggest? I want to get some corals but not the ones that require high intense lighting.  <you really need to pick your coral species before you can pick any lighting...they have such different needs. And try to avoid mixing drastically different families from LPS, SPS, Octocoral and Corallimorph families... just a recipe for problems in the long run. Have a dominant theme and stick to it. Low to med light for Zoantharians and LPS species, medium to high light for Octocorals, and high light for clams and SPS species to make a gross generalization> Again my budget is limited. I am not worried about going cheap now and spending even more when I upgrade. When I say cheap I don't mean the cheapest out the best for the money. I would also like to know if I need to buy a different lid or what?  <two retrofit 6500K Iwasaki metal halides (150 watt) would work nicely. Very little DIY save for screwing the reflector and socket foot into the canopy lid, A great savings indeed and a lighting scheme that would be great for the long run too. Halides offer the most bang for the buck hands down> Some people have told me that I could just lay it across the lid I have now with no covering. This did not sound to cozier. Please let me know.  <depends on the light... but indeed not safe for most> Thanks, Natalie  <kindly, Anthony>

Lighting Question Greetings! <Buona sera, Anthony> I am looking for some advice on lighting a 125 (72") reef. I have two options I am considering based on my budget. Option 1 is to purchase two CSL SmartLite hoods each containing 2x96w for a total of 4x96w PC's. This will obviously total 384w. Second option is to buy a retro kit for my modern series canopy from all glass using the Icecap ballast and 4x160 VHO (two actinic white and two actinic blue bulbs). This setup will again obviously total 640w. The price between the two is less than $100. It seems somewhat obvious that the VHO option would be more bang for the buck at just under 260w more light. My intention is to keep mostly soft corals and a few LPS. Which setup would you recommend and why? Thanks! Adam <definitely the VHOs... better intensity that will be needed and appreciated for the deeper six foot tank, still not too much light for the lower light LPS, many of which belong on the bottom of aquaria anyhow (Fungiids, Catalaphylliids, etc), indeed a better value, cheaper and easier bulb replacements because of common industrial applications/production, time tested (although PCs are good lights as well). I like simple blue actinics and daylight in balance. I can even tolerate the cheap industrial daylight tubes under $15 each... they grow coral just as well! URI brand is my choice. Anthony Calfo>

Hi Bob. From my research I've noticed that a majority of corals (at least those I've looked at) prefer medium to strong lighting. I've come to terms that my 125 gallon tank has a low amount of light (180 total watts) for these corals but I've also discovered (well, found them in a book =) several corals that do not need require, or even like, a high amount of light. Could you recommend some of the less obvious (like Tubastrea) that I may have missed that should do well with my light arrangement? >> Yikes, just the type of query I like (involved and thoughtful), but can't hope to answer in a short response... Well, first off I commend your personal search/research re your potential livestock's' living requirements... and the look/investigate before you buy approach. And I do concur with your observation. Of course, relative to what we are accustomed to farther away from the equator, it's very bright in the tropics, even under shallow water. And yes, there are many non-photosynthetic stinging-celled animals (even in the true coral Order, Scleractinia), some are even reef builders though being ahermatypic... Now, about simply listing the families, genera, species that have no, lower, least light intensity requirements... I'd rather refer you to Veron's or Nilsen and Fossa's books... not simply to save me time (there are MANY, though not that many that are currently commonly found in the resale trade), but to not "paint" a too-simple picture (you can imagine the damage you and I could do with such a posting being read by new reef keepers... "let's see, this is probably an easy species to keep, because that knuckle-head Bob Fenner said it doesn't need much light..."). To repeat, there are many true/stony corals (and many other stinging-celled animals that are lazily labeled as "corals") that don't need much in the way of light. There are references that detail this, among other essential husbandry notes... I'd study these. Bob Fenner MH nec. for Scler.? I would like to first thank you for the past information you have passed on to me. I am going back and forth with the lighting issue. The two retailers that I do business with both use MH for light on their livestock. They both have told me that if you plan to keep stony corals (Acropora sp.) I should us the MH. At the present time I have no interest in keeping this type of coral, but if my tastes change will VHO or power compact be enough light? In your opinion which is better VHO or Power compact in relation to performance, and operating cost? How many watts should I use on a 36 X 24 X18 tank or 58 gal? And what name brand would you recommend. I know that you don't recommend MH for reef keepers, but if there is one plus that would pull me towards MH what would it be and is it worth it in cost and performance. Thank you, AJB >> I appreciate your support and your query. Hmmm, let's see. It wasn't till too long ago (a year or two) that MH was not only the best, but close to the only practical way to get intensity and quality of light for all eventualities. Additionally, as you might surmise, for the retail, the appearance of livestock is extremely important: MH lighting (often with actinic fluorescents) show off the organisms on offer like nothing else.     To answer your second paragraph, Power Compacts beat VHOs in set-up, operation and replacement costs (per PAR, lumens, even appearance). Ah, Brand Names... I rarely "do" endorsements for a few reasons. I'm good friends with many people in the business side of our aquaristic interests... the players and their products change much more frequently than posted, printed information... and in this case, there are many makes/models that are so close, that there really is little difference. I would take a stroll through the hobby magazine, Freshwater and Marine Aquarium (I'm sure you're familiar with this publication, but for browsers I'll mention they do have a website).     And I do suggest MH lighting for deeper, larger systems. Here, these fixtures reign supreme. Not only is MH illumination gorgeous, it "punches" to depths with strength ahead of all other types of lighting. In my opinion if you either have a tank that is two feet deep (or more) or can make sense of the added electrical cost, waste heat, potential burn and even explosion potential versus the beauty and photosynthesis driving ability of MH's, go for them. For larger systems, I'd actually incorporate both MH and CF's... Bob Fenner

Mr. Fenner, I've been reading tons of articles on the proper lighting for a reef tank and have found that there seems to be no clear "best" choice. Metal Halides work, but they're very expensive, have widely (and difficult to determine) levels of quality / suitability, etc. Normal fluorescents can work, but you'll probably need a lot of them to provide enough intensity. VHO lights can work as well, but certain regions of their spectra fade quickly with time. Compact fluorescents have been called by some "the best possible solution," since they're efficient, are small (many can be used), can provide the correct spectrum, and don't lose their spectrum quickly with time (I don't know how much these cost). The general principles seem to be: 1) You must have sufficient wattage 2) You must provide this sufficient wattage in the photosynthetic region (about 400 to 700 nm wavelength) My additional requirements are: 3) the cost of the lighting can not break the bank (no more than about 200 bucks) 4) I don't have to run out and buy bulbs every 4 or 5 months 5) the lights don't get so hot (7" from water) that they cook my tank inhabitants Now, I currently have a 55gal fish only tank, which happens to contain a maroon clown. I would like to add a bubble anemone for the clown and maybe a few hardy corals..... I'm planning to buy the necessary equipment to install four 48", 40watt 50/50 (actinic white) bulbs. Will this be enough for a bubble anemone and a few hardy corals?? If not, what's the minimum setup I need. If my setup is sufficient, is there anything better, but only slightly more expensive? Thank you. Cordially, ENS William James Yavelak >> What a joy to receive such a well-thought out and well-researched query. Do agree with much of your assessment and observations. For function's sake (versus simply looks) there are a few ways "to go" in lighting a marine system... and a range of incidental costs. Metal halides are great, given the depth of system, some way of disposing of the waste heat they produce, and their initial high, operating and maintenance costs...  The number of watts is not as useful a measure of supply per gallon as is PAR (photosynthetically available radiation), and there are (I don't want to hear anyone groaning) actual PAR meters...  The four lamp scheme you mention should be fine for your 55, but I would still consider the compact fluorescents for the non-actinic light... Bob Fenner

Lighting, fixt. I currently have a Coralife SHO 48 inch strip and two 55 watt 6700 k I would like to keep clams, corals and invertebrates i.e. anemones. Is this sufficient.  Do I need to add a blue actinic, the SHO light strips are expensive can I get away with adding a single or double fluorescent fixture for the actinic.  I was looking at a RedSea Phazer IV, with two AquaStar 10k's and two Coralstar Actinic Blues what are your thoughts.  Confused Regards, Lou >> I take it these are on a four foot or so long tank? Depending on depth (as long as it's not over 22", like a show model 55 gal...) the present lighting should be fine, and better with adding the actinics... even if they're normal output fluorescents. The newer lighting system proposed is nicer, but not necessary... for most collections of livestock I would have... unless you intend to push their metabolisms... and have the money, expertise to contend with the induced mal side-effects of doing so. Bob Fenner... who would just add the actinics.

I have some data in http://www.aquabotanic.com/lightcompare.htm. The tablelists just one CF, the Osram Dulux L 55w/850. Its PAR/watt efficiencyfactor is about 20% higher than equivalent (CRI ~ 80) but normal-output fluorescents. I have additional, non-published results for the Philips PL-L 55w/950, a higher CRI CF. Its PAR/watt factor is about 10% larger than other high CRI but normal output fluorescents (typically a C50 full spectrum tube). I also have non-published results for the Philips TLD/950, a very high CRI full-spectrum T8 tube, that indicate its PAR/watt efficiency to be about 20% higher than normal full-spectrum fluorescents. Based on these very few but hard data points, I would say CFs and T8s are somewhat more efficient than normal output fluorescents.  <Oh yes! RMF>

Lighting Bob- I was wondering if you could explain the difference between fluorescent, power compact, VHO and metal halide lighting. I understand that, in general, hard corals need stronger lighting than soft corals but how much lighting is too much (so corals don't burn) and what is the minimal lighting needed to support a basic live rock and soft coral reef tank.  <Well, some basics: the first three are all types of fluorescents... and Metal Halides produce photons by way of a different physical principle... But I don't think this is the information you want... Your understanding re soft and hard corals is the same as mine. Most soft corals can get by on half as much PAR (photosynthetically active radiation, a measure of the strength of useful EMR wavelengths)... But let me stop, or slow here and say that what you are asking is very important, germinal to successful husbandry of light-needing life... but not easy to answer in a short period of space and time... Instead, I have more detailed articles to refer you to at www.wetwebmedia.com on the Net. Read these over (re light, fixtures... for marine aquariums). There are just too many factors to elaborate on here: Dissolved color in the water, depth of the tank, light extinction coefficients for different light sources... to give a fast formula of oh so many watts or lumens per this or that measure... I'll answer more satisfyingly with your specific circumstances listed below> Also, how does each type of lighting affect algae growth (both good algae and bad algae)? <What do you mean? How does photosynthesis work... the same mechanism for each type of light... but more for more of the photonic energy produced by any given type of lighting type... More to the point, in general are issues of whether a given light source will produce how much useful wavelengths for purposeful (desired) photosynthesis... for the most part, the same wavelengths that boost hermatypic corals et al. also boost thallophyte (algal) metabolism... The control of noisome algae is more a matter of maintenance, nutrient competition and predatory control than producing the "right" amount or types of visible light> Lastly, what is the difference between the four types of lighting in regards to how strong they are and what type of spectrum they have. <The MH is "strongest" per rated watt, but most are "less efficient" than most CFs... i.e. they CFs produce more useful illumination per money overall... due to the MH consuming more power than their rated equivalent outputs, fixture and lamp investment, replacement... with the VHO, HO and regular output fluorescents ranking very down... but being highly variable depending on lamp, ballast types employed... The spectral mix has much more to do with the type of lamp than the mechanism of light production... Do you understand concepts like Color Rendering Index, Color Temperature, Intensity and Spectral Shift...? You will soon> I currently use two 36" 30W blue and two 36" 30W white. I would like to support both hard and soft corals and will upgrade my lighting to what you suggest. FFExpress seems to have a great selection. Thanks for your help once again. Rob  >> On how big, deep a tank?  Bob Fenner

Fiber optic lighting bob  have you heard of anybody using fiber optic lighting on reef a tank ?  lightolier corp. has fiber optic lighting coming out on the market Feb./march.  the light generator is available in 175w,250w and 400w metal halide. it will be able to handle up to 10 fiber optic cables. the tips on the cable will be available in various degrees of spots and floods. I am thinking of trying this out on my tank. you can sit the light generator on the floor or inside the stand, place a 12k or 14k bulb in it and run the cables up into the hood. no heat buildup! what do you think? >> Interesting to actually get a unit, hook it up and see how much useful light (as in with a lumen meter, PAR meter) it produces... Something's like this have actually been tried "on the market"... but don't know the particulars of the mechanism of light production (don't think any have been MH)... and these were mainly decor items... not functional light producers per se. As my Mom would say if we asked if we could get ice-cream if we were good, "We'll see". Bob "pistachio" Fenner

Need a light for my 45 gallon saltwater fish tank. I have had saltwater fish for many years and I am looking into keeping corals. I need to know if you carry the correct lighting I need for the tank. Please advise. Thank you, Luis Perez >> For 45's of stock sizes, look into two compact fluorescents... one of about a 10k rating the other an actinic... and get a couple of timers... These will be your best investment for getting you the looks and spectrum/intensity for a good mix of all that's available in reef livestock. Bob Fenner

Lighting Question Hello Bob I was planning on setting up a Fish only tank until I read your very interesting book "The Conscientious Marine Aquarist" now I'm hooked and would like to try to set up a tank with fish and Invertebrate system, with live rock. My question is what type of lighting should I provide for my live rock so that I can grow coralline algae and what ever may be present on the live rock. After I become more skilled I would like to move toward keeping a reef aquarium. I will be setting up a 90gal. tank and was planning on using 4 VHO lamps when I move toward a reef aquarium. I would like to know if I should start with the 4 VHO lamps or wait until I start keeping specimens that need intense lighting. I would rather put my money toward the VHO lamps now instead of buying a strip light now with twin 40 watt bulbs and having no use for them when I upgrade. Also will this be enough lighting for some of the photosynthetic corals I might try to keep in the future. I know these lights will be over kill in the beginning but I thought it would be good for the live rock. Thanks, Ralph >> Ah, the clincher is that you will be moving into more "reef" life sooner than later... and the size/shape of your intended tank (a ninety)... You could get by on just two VHO's in the meanwhile (of full-spectrum fluorescent lighting)... but I encourage you to look into a "double" compact fluorescent for now (the fish and invert. and live rock... with coralline algae) set up... with about a 10k temperature... and add two actinic VHOs when you are stepping up to more light dependent life forms. Otherwise, the four VHOs you have in mind will work... and you can switch one or more of the "white" lamps out for actinic types (and save them for replacing the others when they're old). Bob Fenner

Dear Bob, I am starting up a new tank, but it is one weird shaped tank. Specs: 40 gallons 39 inches deep <!> diamond shaped equipment (so far): 150 watt heater aquarium systems quicksand filter Aquaclear 150 filter (only size to fit on tank) I need some help on lighting needs and species preferences... Lighting - Because the tank is only 16 inches across the top my aquarist friend suggested a MH system for the depth also. I found a good 10000k system w/dimmer (name brand+small price). But I wanted to know if it was a good choice for the species I would like: 5 (A. akindynos, Sebae, or allardi which do you suggest for best candidate?) clownfish, 1 hippo tang, some cleaner shrimp, live rock (pounds?), live sand, and an anemone (E. quadricolor). Your book was GREAT! Please help soon, Chris Anderson >> What do you was? Oh, let's see. Yes, I'd definitely go with the metal halide... Bear in mind you will want to be able to adjust its height to manipulate temperature effect... And all three Clowns you list are great.... but the akindynos is my fave... and both it and the allardi are natural symbionts with Entacmaea, but the Sebae (the real species) is not... though it/they will generally "learn" to live together. Live rock poundage is a function of density (variable feature), and desired look/effect... somewhere... about forty to seventy pounds is probably what you're looking at/for... Check out the "old Acroporid" types sold out of Tonga, Fiji, Marshalls... Bob Fenner

Lighting? Lamps and fixtures Hello Bob, I have a 30 gallon tall setup w/ eclipse II and I was wondering what lighting would be best for propagating the growth of my live rock and inverts? I do not have the ability to use VHO, metal halide or power compacts. What do you think would be better? 10,000k and 03 Actinic, 20,000k and 03 Actinic or 10,000 k and 20,000 k fluorescent? thanks a bunch, Ben >> In my opinion... and you know many other folks will state otherwise, the first choice, the 10k and O3 are best.... for looks and function overall... Now that bold statement being made, there are "live rock and inverts" mixes that would quickly change my mind. If/when you find yourself more interested in small polyped stony corals, tridacnid clams... or perhaps boosting the growth/metabolism of other less-light demanding species... But for now, and overall... the 10k and 03. Bob Fenner

Will you please give me a name and wattage on types of light I can retrofit and where I can get it for the RR Oceanic 135g fish only Thank you for your help .New aquarist  >> For what sort of livestock? For what function? To keep them alive, just see non-photosynthetic organisms, like fishes, when you want to? To maximize growth of giant clams, stony corals...? Do a little more digging... take a look at the marine aquarium lighting and light articles stored at www.wetwebmedia.com There are many options... for me, I'd fit in some compact fluorescents in the 135... but the number of lamps/watts, and their types (actinic, different temperatures of the "white" lamps) would vary depending on the types of life and function YOU have in mind...  Bob Fenner

Lighting I have a question I'm starting up a reef tank and I was wondering what would be better on a 30g 192watts or 284watts  thanks, David  >> If you're just starting, I would go for the lower wattage for sure... "Boosting" a system photically is a dangerous and involved enterprise... Everything happens faster: waste heat production, algae problems, injurious interactions between photosynthetic antagonistic species (there's a bunch)... Go with the lower wattage... this is enough light to keep any type of marine livestock... Bob Fenner

Lighting With the high cost of Metal Halide is it possible to light a reef tank with a Mercury Vapor light. I have an old book published by Tetra press that suggest that Mercury Vapor can be used it just needs to be supplemented with Actinic blue lights. Before I switch to a new lighting system instead of fluorescent and it's expense of changing tubes every 6 months I'm trying to explore different options. >> I would not go the mercury vapor route... though these lighting types are in use in some places in Europe... I don't care for them... for the incomplete wavelength issue you mention as well as their appearance... Save up for MH, and/or investigate the next generation of functional/aesthetic winning lighting technology: Compact Fluorescents... all the looks and intense full spectrum... at lower initial and operational cost... with negligible waste heat...  Bob Fenner

Lgt. fixt. Hi Bob I just read your book which was fantastic for a beginner as myself. I have a 67 gallon fish only which I am slowly converting to reef. I plan to keep soft corals but I do not know what the future holds. I need to buy a metal halide hood. I want to buy the hood once so I don't want to spend the extra cash to upgrade in future. 48 long, 16 wide, 20 deep. 2.5 inch sand bed. either 1) 2 175 5500k with 2 NO actinics extra fan plan to upgrade to a 10000k bulb for the look later on. 2) 2 250 6500k Iwasaki with 2 NO actinicsextra fan also can get the 10000k in future. For the moment I don't know my goal but I love clams and soft corals. My worry is that I might not need 250 watters? its 20 deep can 175 watts be good enough, I am worried about overheating the tank with the 250 etc...or spending money that does not have to be spent. might get a 24 deep in future. 48 long, 18 wide 24 high= 90 gallons, will 175 be ok? or should I get the 250 from start. Also all I want is a bright white look to the tank, not to yellow, green or blue. Which combination will do this white color look? Thank you Bob , loved your book. >> Thank you for writing... and if you don't mind, after you've obviously done quite a bit of research already... I'd suggest you reconsider your options... and take a look at the possibility of compact fluorescents for the 20" tank... something in the way of two lamps in the 10k temp. range... which brings up the MH idea... the higher Kelvin rating the brighter white appearing... and if you do go with the 250's you're definitely going to have to get a chiller.... so I would: 1) Get CFs... or secondarily: 2) The two 175w MHs or lastly... with a chiller and the big electric bill and sunglasses for all: 3) the 250w MHs Your friend in fish, Bob Fenner 

Lighting and setup  I work at a pet store and I try to provide as much information about saltwater setups and fishes. I read your section at FFExpress everyday just absorbing the information. Here is my question. At work we are competing with another pet store almost across the street with saltwater fishes and reefs and etc.. We are setting up a 125 gal reef tank. The owner of the store wants it to be the main attraction of the saltwater fish section. He put me in charge of it because I am the only one with any experience in saltwater fish. Anyway, I have basic knowledge for corals , just like polyps and anemones, but not any hard or soft corals especially pretty show ones. What sort of lighting do I need to get for the tank, he wants to use a wet/dry system, so maybe other people will look at it and buy one. What are some easier corals, most likely to live, that are pretty or unusual to look at and what are some good fish to put in there. I want to put some Banggai cardinals, I love those little guys but when I would feed them, a lot of the food would be gone before they got a chance to eat, so what are some other fish I can keep with them that are reef safe. When people come into my store, if I cant help them or don't have a clue, I send them to your webpage to ask you, I have had some nice comments about your response. thanks for the help, Mike >> Thanks so much for writing... And get ready with the big pot of coffee for some "late night" study... Do your store, the hobby, and yourself a giant favor and get/read (they can/should become "store reference copies" Volumes 1 and 2 of Sven Fossa, Alf Nilsen "Modern Coral Reefs", and Charles Delbeek and Julian Sprung's same number of tomes "Reef Aquariums"... and read them carefully....  You are soon to represent not only your store, but the industry's best and brightest information/presentation on what the marine hobby has to offer.... And from these questions.... You're not ready! If it were my shop (spent 14 years "on the floor" retail, started, helped run a corporation that had stores...) I'd set-up the 125 with both Metal halide pendants AND some compact fluorescent actinics... Easier corals? Start with some of the Euphyllias (Anchor, Frogspawn...)... Avoid buying, displaying tough-to-keep species like Gonioporas ("flower pot"), Elegance (Catalaphyllia) Corals....Fishes? Where to start? For when you're on the Net, take a look through the selection articles and family/genera/species accounts I have archived at www.wetwebmedia.com for a quick introduction to what is available, best... and what to avoid... Pay especial attention to the sections: "The Best Livestock... for Your Reef/Marine Aquarium" (unpublished book sections). Thank you for your kind comments, and involvement in "our" interest! Bob Fenner

I have been told that I need special lights for live rock, as of now I have 4 - 48in. from the hardware store, 3 normal warm lights and one blue sunlight light. will these work for now, or do I need to get coral life lights, I plan on getting some new ones later when I go to a reef tank. thanks >> You can use most any bright light source, but full-spectrum fluorescents of a warmer temperature range (measured in degrees Kelvin) of 5,000, and a CRI (color rendering index) of 90 or more are needed for really healthy growth (useable wavelengths of light are at question here)... You don't mention how big, deep a tank, or how much, what type of live rock... Maybe take a look at the Marine Lighting materials stored on my site: Home Page for much more detail, input. Bob Fenner

Hello: I've heard you talk about reverse photoperiod in regards to lighting . Could you please explain this briefly ? Thanks, Jill >> Reverse photoperiod refers to lighting regimens alternating between a main and sub-system like a sump/refugium... One being on while the other is off... the benefits of such an arrangement include a stabilization of water quality, dissolved oxygen, algae reduction... Bob Fenner, who must always remind himself of the enormous amount of cryptic and arcane terminology and verbiage in our interest, and thanks you.

New line of questioning....I know I need to upgrade the lighting on my tank again...I should have learned by now that there is no easy way to cut corners in salt water...right?  <A few, but not many> Well, On my 92 gal corner aquarium we have about 110w in Power Compacts and 60w in a regular Fluorescent. (in each 1 actinic bulb, one day). That totals 170w....well, through FFE. I see that they carry a 36" power compact in hood, 384w for $529 and a Metal halide/ power compact prism with 306w for about $439. Could you please advise me on which to go with?  <I'll try> I really don't have the money to spend, but you know all of the trouble that we are having with the mantis, and the Cyanobacteria etc....I don't want to "mess up" again and have to spend even more to fix the new problems. <Agreed... and the amount of lighting is directly tied in...> I have described the top of my tank to you before with its odd shape there is no hood. I have merely a cover glass with the lights in their own hoods (the one has its own fan) on top. When I switch to the new lighting it will no doubt not cover the entire top of the tank. Do I need to be worried about the light escaping around the sides of the ABS hood through the cover glass?  <Not really, unless it annoys you.... there are advantages (functional) of reflecting the light down, into your system though... hoods, contact material you can buy, install... even (for non-MH... they get too hot), Mylar-reflectorized acrylic that is easy to cut/have cut into panels that can be fashioned into light hoods/niches...> Please be honest. Should I hire someone to build some kind of reflecting hood that will cover the whole cover glass? <If you don't have the time, tools, materials, expertise... sure (I don't do much work on my old (Hey, they're paid for) cars)... No worries... Or you can fashion one out of wood... and maybe rig up a trellis-like arrangement for lifting it up, out of the way when you want to get inside the tank...> Not too much light "escapes" right now due to the fact that I have the two ABS hoods up there...but switching to only one may be a different story. Also, one more small question...how do I make the switch less dramatic for the fish and algae problem?  <Phase in the number of new lamps, hours on... over a few weeks time.> Maybe by only turning on half of the lights for a week or so, and then three lights, and then all four? Is that even possible?  <Sure. There are timers, dimmers... or the manual route> Are there four switches on those things? Gee I wish we had some intelligent marine tank specialists out here!!!! Thanks again. I look forward to your response as usual! RT :)  >> <Sure, and thank you for the swimming Tang download. Either the CF's or CF and MH combo will do well on your size, shape tank... I am inclined to suggest just using the CF's as these will do the job and present fewer technical and problematic possibilities (the MH's are HOT, and need to be situated higher above the tank... produce waste heat that needs to be dealt with... And do produce copious amounts/intensity of light... but maybe for types of organisms you never intend to house... like SPS corals, Giant Clams.... If it were me, or you were my customer, I'd stick with the CF's... Bob Fenner>

180 salt fish tank setup, fixt. I have just purchased a used 180 SeaClear tank and am working to set it up. My question is about lighting. The tank will have fish and live rock but no inverts. I have gone to many fish stores over the last week trying to narrow my lighting choices down but have become more confused. Some say that 2 4' fluorescence will do, others say that I should go with the compacts. Then they talk about the blue and white lights and also weather on the compact lights to go with 2 36" with 2 bulbs each or 4 bulbs each. I am totally confused. I am going to have a canopy so the lights can be mounted. And I want the tank to be bright but not blinding. Any help you can give me would be appreciated. >> Good to hear of your going with building/buying a canopy... the hoods that come with SeaClear's tanks are inadequate... Do understand the many different opinions you're getting... Who knows how long you might keep this 180 just "Fish Only"? Also, depending on the setting... two Regular Output (RO) or four might be too dim for your enjoyment... For me, I would look into at least four RO to boosted (High, Very High) output fluorescents... or step up to the plate for the Compact Fluorescents (CFs)... and not worry too much about the "blue" (aka actinic) lamps for now... you can buy them later... or just get one or two lamps in this spectral/temp. range if you intend to start with, or soon add live rock... or any photosynthetic life... In either case fluorescents come in different, specified temperatures... and I would go with lamps that are at least 5k in temp... and likely some in the 5 and 10k ranges... take a look around at retrofitting this gear yourself, btw. FFExpress.com sells the parts for the DIYer. Sorry if I'm adding to, instead of erasing the bloat of information here... Maybe take a look at the Marine Light, Lighting sections stored at the URL: www.wetwebmedia.com Bob Fenner

Lighting, fixt. Hi We have just purchased a 110 gallon aquarium, with wet dry filter, protein skimmer and an additional power head. We have also just purchased live rock uncured and cured from FFE. My question is two part (we are novice) 1st I eventually want to add lighting for soft coral, etc. what would you recommend for this size tank. <If only live soft corals, VHO fluorescents, possibly VHO and Compact Fluorescents (some of actinic, some whites of 5k, 10k temperature)... to Just CF's... If you might go the SPS coral and tridacnid clam route, possibly the addition of two, or even three Metal Halides in addition to some CF actinics...> #2-The live rock will be coming today, since the tank has been running for over a week, can I cured the live rock in this tank? Please give me your opinion. <Yes, do cure the live rock in place... see the articles on this and related topics stored at www.wetwebmedia.com>  Its great to know that their are professionals who are there to help Thank you, Connie >> <You're welcome! Bob Fenner>

Lighting, fixt. My Tank is 72x18x18, and I currently have 2 36" twin tube NO lights for the tank. It is a fish only with about 45 lbs. of live rock ,11 fish( 3 tangs, 2 clowns, nigger trigger, damsels), 2 Condylactis anemones, Feather duster and 2 shrimp (banded coral & cleaner). I would like to try soft corals, but I know that the lighting must be upgraded. I want to go metal halide but I am worried about the heat, (no chiller in budget). I have been told to use 175w 10,000K. Are pendants ok? What about fluorescent lighting? I need help? Also, is it cheaper to build myself? Thanks. >> Hmm, if it were me, I'd leave off with the metal halides ideas altogether, and either add more regular to boosted output fluorescents, or if little room, and/or desirous of more intensity, look into compact fluorescents instead, in addition. Take a look at FFExpress retrofit products for these: yes, you can DIY. Am a bit worried about the Niger Trigger in this mix... it will eventually go after your shrimps, feather duster, and probably your clowns... Bob Fenner

Hi Bob, First of all, I would like to tell you that your column is the best I've ever read. It's too bad that people like my husband, that only speak Spanish, cannot benefit themselves with it, like they would like to. I hope that one day we can be able to find information in our language. I would like for you to take in consideration my constructive critic which will give you the success in being the first in writing a column about this hobby, offering your readers the option on choosing the language they prefer to read it in. <Please do look into a language translation program... they are easy to use, and work quite well> The reason why I'm writing is because my husband plans to set a 55gls (long) with live rock for hard and soft corals. Our question is, which type of lighting is the most adequate for this, taking in consideration that he wants something that is effective and at the same time affordable. <At a minimum four foot (40 Watt) regular output full spectrum fluorescent lamps and fixtures for your four foot long tank... Better would be two to four VHO (Very High Output) fluorescent lamps, or two or four Compact Fluorescent lamps. Make one or two of these actinic types, and put the last on timers to come on and go off before and after the "white" lamps about an hour each way>  Even though we have a 110gl fish only, and we want to be sure that the lighting that we are using for the corals tank is the best. Any help on this will be appreciated... Nibelma and David PS. Excuse my poor English, and hope you understand me >> <Your English is perfect Senora, gracias usted, Roberto Fenner>

Light fixt. Your Q&A have been an invaluable source of information. I have a 155gal mixed reef with appx 160 lbs of live rock, 1 finger leather, a couple of polyps, cabbage coral, long tentacled plate coral, and two anemones, as well as some fish. I am running two 250 watt metal halides in a custom hood (12000 Kelvin bulbs), and the tank doesn't seem bright enough, what would you add, if anything? >> Hands down choice for me would be retrofitting your system with some compact fluorescents. Take a look at the sort of technology FFExpress.com offers: a mix of lamps of 6700 and 7100 daylight and actinic... separate dusk/dawn controls... this is what I'd get to add to your MH's... I would definitely go this route, and not the upgrade to 400 watt metal halide lamps, or any other type/temp. of fluorescents. This is the best way to augment what you have to get the best looks and function from your system lighting-wise. Bob Fenner

I am about to convert my fish/live rock tank to a reef tank and would like your advice on lighting. I have a 150gal which measures 72"x24"x24". I currently have 3x160w VHO's. 2 white, 1 actinic. My LFS has told me my current lighting is sufficient for all coral types. I am concerned about temp build up. My tank currently runs at 82 degrees. I had thought about using a retrofit kit 6x96w PC's or metal halides/PC combos, but don't want to add a chiller unless I really have to because of the noise/cost. I currently have a very nice oak hood from Tenecor which I'd like to keep. If you feel the lighting is sufficient should I consider Ice Cap ballasts and fittings to try to reduce heat ? My guess is more intense light will make my temp problem worse ? Any advice you can give would be great. Thanks. >> Thank you for writing, and providing such complete information... what you have, what you want to do with your system. Switching to the electronic ballasts is one very good possibility... for reducing waste heat, improving your lamp performance and functional lifespans. If you didn't have the current VHO's there would be no doubt how I would go, with the Compact Fluorescents in your case, size, shape of system... and lack of interest in a chiller and all that goes with it. And considering how much the ballasting costs, I would switch to the CF's, with 1/3 maybe as actinics, and at least one third as 10,000 K "whites", maybe the others at a 5,500 K area.  The current lighting is fine for many types of corals (soft, most gorgonians, Zoanthids, Corallimorphs...), but not SPS like Acroporids and not many of the larger polyp stony corals, IMO. Bob Fenner

20 Gallon Lighting Question Hi Bob, I really have enjoyed reading your words of wisdom on the WWM site. I have finally come up with a question of my own. I have a 20 gallon tank with water volume that measures about 22x16x16. Right now I have 2 maroons, 1 cherub angel and a handful of hermits with about 15 lbs of live rock. I plan on adding some more live rock and would like to add an anemone for the clown and maybe some other "low light" corals. I have been looking at the Custom Sea Life PC 15 inch light hood to add. This would give me about 64 watts of light for the tank. My question is whether this is enough? <Mmmm, is there some way I can talk you into a larger system? A twenty is inherently too unstable... a bad risk for these additions. The kind, strength of lighting per gallon is about right however. Thank you for writing. Bob Fenner> Thanks in advance for your assistance, Tony Jopling

Re: 20 Gallon Lighting Question Thank you very much for your extremely fast response. Yes, you could easily talk me into a larger system, however my wife (and my soon to be born son) might have something else to say about the expense of a new system. <Thought children couldn't talk for a couple of years...> We do however have plans to purchase a new system in the future. Probably something more like a 40-50 gallon system. <Ah good> Something I think I will have to begin working on very slowly. For now we are going to add a Bak-Pak and do some improvements to the lighting of our current system and then we can follow up with some simple corals. So now I have another question. I just purchased the "handful" of hermit crabs I mentioned before. I have 3 blue leg and 5 red leg crabs. I am not sure if there are any additional needs they have as far as food goes. My tank currently develops brown algae fairly well. Does that provide sustenance for the crabs?  <That and "scraps" should suffice> I am afraid I am fairly ignorant on their care. Thanks again for the wonderful resource that you are providing. Have a wonderful Holiday Season! <Peace to you my friend. Bob Fenner> Tony Jopling

A Question of Lighting I have a question regarding lighting for my salt water tank. Currently I do have 3 fish and some corals and they are not looking as well as they should (the corals). Chemicals aside, I think my lighting may have something to do with it. I have 110 W of PowerCompact lights. I have a 65gal flat back hex, so my dimensions are a little weird. 48" long, the flat side is 9 3/4" then it angles again 9 3/4", and it is 20" high. Would you recommend I switch to VHO, add more wattage or what? If I add another light 36" it sits in front and I have to remove the light every time I need to feed them etc.....I am also considering building a canopy for my tank. Does that alter the amount of wattage needed? Would you recommend a canopy or not? Thanks for your help. <Please reply with what corals you currently have and what else you intend to keep. All discussions about proper lighting for photosynthetic inverts has to start with what their requirements are. -Steven Pro> Victoria

Lighting Upgrade Dear Bob, My present tank is 60"L x 24" W x 30" H housing only softies due to angels and BF's lit by 6 x 40W NO fluorescents. <Okay> I have two options of light upgrade, 2 x 150W MH or 8 x 55W PC. Taking into consideration that I do not plan to have SPS, which would be a better option. <A tough one here... both could be made to work. I will opt for the metal halides here though... due to the size, shape of tank, my personal "looks" preferences. Will be spectacular. Bob Fenner> Regards.

Lighting for 92 Gallon Corner Tank 7/12/05 I am upgrading my 55 gallon aquarium to a 92 gallon bowfront corner reef ready aquarium. My question has to do with lighting. My LFS assured me a 36" light will fit the canopy. I am thinking of going with metal halide lighting versus PC. What would be an ideal wattage as far as the metal halide and power compact combo? Thanks so much for your help. J. Howell <... depends on the type of life you intend to keep, what you "want to do with it"... Please read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/marine/setup/lighting/index.htm and the linked files above... till you understand. Bob Fenner>

Marine lighting question 8/28/05 Hello Bob, This site is great and very much appreciated by new guys like me who um....really don't know what they are doing. Anyway I "am" a new guy, I have a 90 gallon saltwater setup with 60 lbs. of live gulf rock, 1 yellow tang 2 false percula 1-6 line wrasse clean up crew+skunk shrimp small group of pumping xenias I am running a pro clear aquatic wet/dry sump 125 w/ a pro clear aquatic in sump skimmer (which is producing about a half a cup of dark muck per day). Also I am using 2 part Ocean's Blend calcium and ph/Alkalinity... about  every other day. Any way my question is about my lighting.. as it stands right now I have (2) 65 watt PC 22 in. and 2 Coralife 40 watt actinic bulbs. I have been taking advice from my local store, and of course I get different suggestions and answers from different employees about how much or what kind of lighting I  should purchase. <Good> Next month a friend of mine is moving quite far from here and  he will be selling me everything he has in his 55 gallon thus including 60 lbs.  of live Fiji, 1 leather, 1 brain coral, a big group of pumping xenias, big feather duster etc. well I want to make sure I have appropriate lighting for   these new corals, I was told I need 2 150 HQI bulbs and 2 PC actinic bulbs. The   setup my local dealer was trying to sell me today was in the mid 700.00 range.   Though it sounds great, I just don't have it this time around, could I possibly  add more pc's or something? Any help is always appreciated! Thanks for listening, Paul <Mmm, could add more boosted fluorescents... but won't have the intensity to "do as much" in the way of growth, color in this depth of tank/water as using metal halides... you don't need the actinics... More on all these choices, issues posted over and over on WWM. Bob Fenner>

Odyssea Light Fixture  - 3/1/2006 Dear crew. I am setting up a 180 gallon reef tank and am wondering about lighting for it. Since I'm on a limited budget I was looking for cheap light fixtures and discovered at www.aquatraders.com <http://www.aquatraders.com/> they have 72in 785 watt MH, pc fixtures for $400. The fixture has 3x 175 watt MH, and since recently it has 2x130 watt PCs instead of 4x 65 watt, but in the end it has the same wattage. I couldn't find much info at all on this lighting from various other sources. I was wondering what you think about getting this fixture. I'd rather get a higher quality fixture and pay more than getting a low quality fixture cheaply. P.S. would any species of SPS corals survive under this lighting, and if so what species? Thanks for responding to previous questions I had and for this one. Thanks again. Marcus.   <As with most all "gear" questions, I'd look/ask about on the various specialized BB's re actual user experiences in a broad stroke... Reef Frontiers, ReefCentral, Reefs.org... Compare notes re customer service, useful life, energy consumption per function, alternatives, applications. Bob Fenner>  

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