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Pet Product News Editorial Blog:

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Synthesizing Values

By Patrick Donston

Store Owner, Absolutely Fish

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Previously, I've mentioned the importance of lighting in your reef displays. If you attempt to use a variety of light sources, your customers will be able to see (and with the help of your staff) understand the differences between them.

The appearances they emit are keys in factoring benefits and consumer aspirations. One should factor Kelvin degrees and lumens when considering proper lighting for photosynthetic animals. Nowadays, we use a more sophisticated analysis, such as PAR (photosynthetically active radiation) values. PAR defines the amount of dispensable light energy a bulb emits for photosynthetic organisms. This is different from the more important PUR (photosynthetically usable radiation) value, which is the amount of PAR value that can be used by a photosynthetic animal. Remember it is possible to have a lower PAR value than another system, yet have a higher PUR value. An example is a claim made by LED lighting sources: "Although LED lights have a lower PAR value than metal halides, the PUR value is higher, allowing more usable radiation to be available for coral photosynthesis."

Of course, when considering lighting we also have to consider the animals and their needs. Soft corals, such as mushrooms, zooantheids and leathers’ PAR and PUR values can be lower. In the case of stony coral and SPS coral, the PUR value should be at a peak level. Lower PAR and PUR values are not always a bad thing. Reef aquariums will tend to grow less micro-algae or cyanobacteria under lower lighting conditions. In other words, the more powerful the light, more consideration needs to be taken with stronger equipment such as protein skimmers, to prevent algae outbreaks. Cost may then become a factor to your clients.

Metal halide systems have the highest PAR and PUR values, allowing reef aquarists to satisfy most of their desired coral choices. There are three basic types: mogul, HQI and HID. The look of the aquarium is spectacular with all three. The downside is the heat produced can add costs in utility bills and equipment, such as chillers and larger protein skimmers. A better option for some reef aquarists may be T-5, power compact or LED systems. Although their PAR values are lower than halides, some argue their PUR values are efficient enough to keep most photosynthetic animals. With the exception of LED, they are less expensive than halides, give off less heat and allow husbandry complacency and less sophisticated equipment. Some of your clients may simply choose a lighting system based on the look of the aquarium. That's why we like to use different systems side by side.

I hope you experiment with a few of these choices. Let your customers know there are many options to reef aquariums. Teach your staff the pluses and minuses and let the customer decide. That is what a good reef shop should do.

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