Getting the right lights is critical to ensure a healthy frag tank.
In my guide on setting up a frag tank, I did not dive deep into what lights to choose from so I am doing it.
Specifically, I will be touching on:
- What top brands you can considers
- What are their pros and cons
- Where to get the best value for money frag tank lights
After looking through a dozen of lights, I choose Kessi full spectrum lights as the best light for frag tank. It is not the cheapest but it is one of the best lights, with its full spectrum of lights and strong intensity. This model gives tank owners a higher chance of growing beautiful corals, which can be easily sold to recoup the investment or simply for you to admire.
You can of course get cheap T5 light bulbs and yes they will work. However, do not expect corals to be as beautiful as they can be. To understand why, the next section will explain the impact of the type of lights on growing corals.
Best light spectrum for coral growth
Before looking at the actual lighting products, it is important to understand how lights affect coral in general.
Understanding Color temperature
In the past, white lights are touted as the only light spectrum needed. In recent times, blue is viewed as more important. The truth is somewhere in between.
Both lights are needed to create the kind of coral you want to see. They mixed together to create what we called color temperature.
Color temperature is a term used to describe the lights coming from a bulb. It is measured in Kelvin rating. The higher the number, the more warm the color temperature is.
[editor’s note: the term “temperature” being used here is not the same temperature we used to measure heat].
For coral growing, the color temperature greatly impacts the kind of colors your corals will be showing. Specifically:
- 10,000 Kelvins: Corals will have full colors but are not as bright
- 14,000-16,000 Kelvins: Some corals will have muted colors but others will be bright and full colors
- 20,000 Kelvins: Most corals will be bright but some will have very fainted colors.
Depending on what kind of look you want to create, you need lights that can reproduce the Kelvins that are needed.
What to look for when buying lights for frag tank
Due to the differences in frag tanks (for example size, depth, type of corals etc), there are a bunch of factors one need to consider before making the purchase. Here are some of mine:
- Main tank lights: It is a good idea to use the same lights that you main tank is using. This way, it is easy to shift the corals to and from the different tanks without too much thought.
- Led vs florescent: My choice is LED given it is energy efficient and gives more bang for buck. Led carries a higher price tag but if you amortize it over its lifespan, the cost per year is cheaper than a florescent.
- Size of light bulb: There is a choice of T12, T8 and T5 light bulbs, which are available in either florescent or led. The smaller the number, the smaller the bulbs. Power wise, T5 is on par with T8 but occupies a smaller space. Hence, most frag tank owners will prefer T5 light bulbs, myself included. T5 also seems to be suited to growing corals as they grew pretty fast under this light.
- Color Control: Different corals grow better under different spectrum of lights. Some thrive under white while others under blue. Cheap light bulbs usually only emits one type of light. If you want to create a mixture of white and blue, you will need full spectrum lighting fixtures.
- Depth of your fish tank: The deeper your tank is, the more powerful the lighting has to be. Usually for anything in the 20″ range, most lighting will be ok. Once you go deeper, you need to pay attention to specifications.
Top aquarium light brands
- Prime HD+ – Offers smart led lights that comes with an app. The app is pretty neat as it allows you to control the lighting perimeter via wifi. I wish more brands will start to add this type of applications on their lighting devices. Have some problems with shipping though, if you read through the Amazon reviews.
- Kessil: This is a great brand if you are looking for led lights. Their 160 model is particularly popular, although it is pricey (over $200). However, you pay for its beautiful lights, quiet operation and flexibility. Moreover, given that they are led lights, you can expect a pretty long lifespan. Kessil also provides full spectrum lights with multiple settings for colors and intensity.
- Hipagero: Pretty popular on Amazon, relative to mentions in the fish tank forums. They also carry led lights and are less pricey relative to Kessil. I have not used personally but seems pretty legitimate from what I have researched on.
- ATI T5 Bulbs: Makes great T5 light bulbs. They even have a model with blue glow. It looks really nice as it is an all out blue like what most led lights are giving out.
- OceanRevive: Similar to Kessil in quality and prices, OceanRevive provides mainly full spectrum led lights i.e. multiple colors. Their products also allows for dual control; one for intensity and one for color of light.
Radion: A pretty well known brand among fish tank owners. Pretty solid products with a wide range of lighting options.
Orphek Atlantik’s: A pretty high end full spectrum lighting fixture provider. It is too rich for my blood so I don’t have any experiences with it. If you are interested in it, please read this thread, especially the 2nd commentor who has experiences in many high end lighting fixtures. (https://www.reef2reef.com/threads/radions-or-orphek-atlantiks.417114/page-2). If you want a summary, the commentor basically said it offers the best color rendering among all the led lighting brands.
Lighting is one of the most critical accessories for a frag tank. Getting it right means having beautiful corals that you can either admire or sell.