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LEDs in Line for Surge

Posted: October 21, 2011, 8:40 p.m., EDT

LEDs are expected by many to overwhelm other types of aquarium lighting during the next five years. John Dawes
By John Dawes

Without a doubt, anyone asked to name the two most prominent products at this year’s Aquarama (the huge all-aquatic trade and public show held in Singapore) would select nano aquaria and light emitting diode (LED) technology. The surge in interest in both has been quite staggering over the past few years, to the extent that newcomers to the industry could be forgiven for thinking that more traditional aquaria and lighting systems are on the way out.

This, of course, is not the case—at least, not yet. Nonetheless, in regard to LEDs, it would seem that all the top lighting manufacturers are either developing such products or are seriously re-thinking their current lines and future policies.

Publicly available data on the actual status of LED lighting, in terms of trade value by volume, recent trends or consumer perceptions, have been virtually—if not totally—lacking. Reservations about the suitability of some forms of LED lighting for optimal photosynthetic coral growth have also circulated widely, both within the trade and the marine hobby.

Not for the first time, though, Coral magazine ( has attempted to fill this gap by consulting its readers via a questionnaire. More than 9,000 questionnaires were sent out, with very interesting results published in the Coral Newsletter’s August edition.
It needs to be said that Coral readers may not be fully representative of the global marine hobby community—they may be more experienced aquarists who know what they are talking about and what they need for their aquaria. Nevertheless, their views may well be seen as significant by manufacturers, wholesalers and distributors of aquarium lighting.

The most striking results from the survey are:
• As many as 53.8 percent of readers are using LEDs, compared to 45.6 percent using T-5 fluorescents and 42.2 percent using metal halides/HQI/HID.
• These figures are likely to change over the next five years, according to the survey, to the extent that LEDs will be used by 85.5 percent of these aquarists, with T-5 fluorescents being used by 24.3 percent and metal halides/HQI/ HID usage falling to 21.3 percent.
• 39 percent of CORAL readers are using LEDs for moonlighting purposes or for special effects, while 36 percent are using them as the sole source of illumination.
• 16 percent of readers rate LEDs as “excellent” for corals and other photosynthetic reef animals, with 12 percent rating them as “very good,” 9 percent as “good,” 31 percent as “don’t know yet,” 2 percent as “poor” and 1 percent as “failure.”

Armed with this data—and taking account of the widespread acknowledgement that when the U.S. sneezes, the rest of the world catches a cold—then adding the prowess and entrepreneurship of Asian product developers and manufacturers, plus the undoubted advances that are ongoing in aquarium lighting, it would not seem unreasonable to predict that the surge in LEDs will continue apace over the next few years.

Or is it as reasonable as this? After all, plasma lighting is already receiving its fair share of attention, and, with plasma outputs being superior to those of LEDs—and with plasma light temperatures approximating that of the sun—who’s to say where we’ll be in five years’ time? One thing seems pretty certain: We won’t be where we are now.

As many as 37 percent of those who took part in Coral magazine’s survey rated LEDs from “good” to “excellent” for coral growth, as well as for other photosynthetic organisms. <HOME> 

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