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My LED Journey and Experiences


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Hey All,

So in my welcome thread, I promised I would make a quite lengthy post with my various LED fixture experiences. A similar post became a flame war on another forum and that definitely is not what I want to happen here. I like to think that I am very versed in this area and I think a post about these would definitely help those of you who are looking to switch to LED fixtures.

There are many factors to consider and many pitfalls that people face and are non the wiser as LED's are a different beast from T5 and MH. So with that, here is my experiences and honest recommendations for LED success.

I will first list the fixtures I have owned, tested, PAR measures, etc. All fixtures were purchased brand new and tested over my 25 and 60 gallon cubes. The good thing about this post is that no one gave me any of these to test or sponsored me, etc. It is just real world results from my point of view.

() means the number I have owned, either at one time, or multiple times which I will specify in each explanation.

1) Ecotech Radion Pro (2)

2) Aqua Illumination Vega Color (2)

3) Kessil A150 Ocean Blue (2)

4) Kessil A360W Tuna Blue (3)

5) Kessil A360W-E Second Gen version (1) - On it's way, have not tried it yet smile.png

6) GHL Mitras 6200HV (1)

7) Apollo UV 6000 (1)

8) Taotronics 120W non adjustable (1)

9) Ecoxotic Panorama Pro 17" Hood (1)

I think that about covers it. Might be a few more that I will think of later.

1) Ecotech Radion Pro - I have a real love/hate relationship with this particular LED. The first one I purchased did great for about the first 2 months, then the software would not work (online software) and it started smoking from the power supply. Went through a ton of bs with Ecotech, customer service was horrible. BRS finally just refunded my money as they couldn't deal with Ecotech either. I purchased another Radion Pro about 4 months after that one and it did just fine. Had some software issues, but it was something I was able to figure the quirks out and get it working.

All the PAR numbers that you see posted by Mrsaltwater (Mark) and others are very accurate. Probably the highest PAR fixture on the market that I have owned. The Radion Pro has a great preset called "Sipidian Reef" or something close to that name and it works great. I ran mine at 60% after a few weeks at 45% and my corals responded very fast. It would be my go to LED if I were having light issues and needed a quick turn around.

I had 0 issues with the fan being under the fixture. No moisture or anything like that. I had it mounted 9" off the water surface. It never over heated and the only time it ever raised to a little warm was when I was running the LED at 100% testing the PAR. Very well made, very well packaged, etc. Good fixture, terrible software, sub par customer service in my experience.

2) AI Vega Color - I mounted 2 of these over my 60 gallon Cube. I purchased their controller with these lights and was also chosen as a beta tester for the AI Director. I won't mislead anyone on the board about these. They were hands down, the worst LED's I ever tried. Almost all of my corals took a huge hit from these lights and I lost corals I have had for 3 years or more. Why? I have no idea, however even with the whites adjusted way down, they still look pretty white overall. I think it might be the manufacturer of the LED's they use or something.

PAR on the Vega Color is pretty high, but it does not continue through the water column. Shortly after the PAR meter goes under the water, it starts dropping very fast and is not consistent at all.

AI products look to be pretty well made and I was pretty excited about owning these. My excitement turned into a nightmare as this was the worst experience in lighting I have ever had. I would not recommend these period.

3) Kessil A150 Ocean Blue - I had 2 of these over a 55 gallon reef when they first came out. They are excellent lights, but due to the nature of their spectral output, they will look dimmer than most lights out there. They are not, but they look that way. I only had 2 over a 48 inch tank and I don't think that was enough with this particular light. I would recommend 4 over a 48 inch tank.

They are not adjustable, so they are turn on and off. I never read the PAR and it would have been useless anyway. Kessil's do not read PAR correctly from a PAR meter. They just don't. If you adjust a Kessil off a PAR meter, you will fry everything in your tank, trust me.

The A150 series would be fantastic for nano tanks, cubes, etc. You could use them for anything if you wanted to put enough of them on. With the release of the A350, A360, there really is no use to now.

4) Kessil A360W Tuna Blue - I have owned 4 of these in total and I will tell you why. I purchased 2 of these and put them over my 60 cube after the Vegas pretty much did everything in. They were doing very well, but I was impatient and put another Radion Pro over it to get my corals back in shape.

In hindsight, I should have left the Kessil's in place as they were doing very well and I really regretted getting rid of them. I purchased a new one off Amazon with saltwateraquarium.com being the retailer. When I received it, it had been opened and returned. Kessil also verified that it had been previously register. The light started going off and on randomly. I then contacted Kessil and they sent me what I thought would be another NEW light. It was refurbished and scratched all over. After a few calls and emails, they are sending me a new one. Kessil has excellent customer service and they do care about the buyer. I give them 5 stars.

Now, I currently have the A360W over the 60 Cube. It looks better with 1 versus the 2 I had on it. If you lower the Kessil's a bit, you will get 0 light spillage and one covers a 24x24 area very well. Every SPS, LPS, Clam, etc. that I have now, is doing fantastic under the Kessil. I will say that it takes a bit of time for your corals to adjust to this light. More so than say a Radion Pro, but it colors them up and they grow very nicely.

The Kessil is the ONLY true UV LED being sold. I will elaborate on why this is important a bit later. PAR (just wanted to see the consistency, see below) is very consistent throughout the water column, all the way to the bottom very much like a Metal Halide. The closest consistency to MH coverage of any fixture I tested.

*** I am going to add this as an important addition. You cannot accurately measure PAR of the Kessil fixtures. They just do not measure accurately and if you crank these up all the way, you will bleach everything you have. I am currently running 70% intensity and 60% color (14k to 15k) and everything is doing great. I had the intensity at 80% and was bleaching my Acropora Speciosa. These are very powerful and if you will be patient, your corals will look absolutely amazing inside of a month. ***

5) The just released Kessil A360W-E - I will be receiving this next week. It is supposed to be about 15% more powerful than the 360W and uses a bit different power supply. I think it will be about identical to the 360W, except they are driving the LED's a bit harder. They also say it is a bit brighter, I think that is because everyone complains they are a little dim. I will report on the new one after I get it and see how it does.

6) GHL Mitras 6200HV - Not even sure where to begin on this light. They have great customer service, answer emails almost immediately, etc. Light has the closed MH look of any LED that I have tried. Good coverage, hardly any shadowing of the cube.

I won't go into personal issues too much here, lets just say that when I wanted to try a different LED light, their North American rep saw it fit to attack me publicly on another forum as he saw it as a slight somehow. Anyway, The light initially impressed me and I still think it is one of the better LED's. My corals started to go downhill after about 3 weeks on this light. In all honesty, I think it was 50% user error as I might have had it a bit high on the power level.

Software is ok, Packaging is horrible, Non existent "how-to" videos or manuals, very archaic construction. Has a cheap little slide that you move to hook up the USB cable. Definitely not worth $1300 dollars or the other price they sell it for $999. If in doubt, go with the Radion Pro if that is your thing.

0 USA support, One store sells in FL, ships from Canada, support is German.

7) Apollo UV 6000, Their newest LED - Apollo is a sponsor here and I hope I don't step on toes. I went through 3 of these fixtures. The first one looked like it came out of a dust filled warehouse and one of the Meanwell drivers was unglued and hanging in the breeze. The second , a replacement for the first, worked very good, except the controller (adjustment output panel) did not work and would lock up, thus you could not turn on the moonlights nor the red led's. The third, a replacement for the second, rattled right out of the box. I took the cover off and one of the Meanwell drivers was hanging loose and was missing all 4 screws.......

The QC on these lights are atrocious. The owner told me he would specifically check the third one and make sure nothing was wrong with it, well he didn't and admitted that he didn't. So I returned them and we went on our way.

Here is the terrible part. While I had a working light, I think it was one of the best LED's I have ever owned. The corals responded almost immediately, much like the Radion Pro, and was doing well. I think they have a great LED layout of their blues and it works. The problem with these lights are they are the typical Blue/White Chinese fixture and you can tell that by looking at your tank. You wouldn't know any difference in the look if you had not previously had a full spectrum light like I have. It still looks good, but you can tell a difference.

It also had quite a bit of shadowing and was very focused to the middle of the light. I had one fixture over the 60 gallon. It hindsight, it would have probably took 2 to get proper coverage. Some QC (A lot actually) and they would do much, much better. PAR was good on this fixture.

8) Taotronics 120W Blue/White, 2 switch, non-adjustable LED - This was the first LED I ever owned. Honestly, it did well and my LPS and Softies grew well. There are a million different versions, same light, of this on Ebay and continue to be. All the current Reef Breeders, Apollo, etc. are based off this fixture. I can't say anything bad about it, it was cheap and it worked pretty well. Would I grow SPS or even try it under this older fixture? Nah, I don't think that would work out too well. I still have this over a small clown tank, it serves the purpose.

9) Ecoxotic Panorama Pro 17" LED Hood - This came with the Ecoxotic 25 gallon cube I bought and still have. I replaced the light with the first Radion Pro as I didn't think this would be nearly enough. Well, I was wrong. I have a couple of different corals growing under this and they are doing great. Before I purchased another Kessil, I thought of getting the set up that DrsFosterSmith have that is designed for SPS or LPS.

The only downside is that you cannot control these via Apex or anything like that. Pretty much on/off, but it does have the ability to dim through a switch they give you with the light. I would recommend these to just about anyone as they will, and do, grow coral well. They have a more white/yellow MH look which I don't care so much for.

Some people had issues with the LED strips burning out early on, I believe they have since redesigned the module and that problem is resolved. The only other issues I have heard of is when people mount these modules directly under their MH lighting and they die. Wonder why? That is a joke, it is definitely the heat.

Ok, so if you have questions, ask. I am sure I haven't covered a lot of things here, I just wanted to post my experiences with the various fixtures. I have over 20 years of experience in saltwater and over 10 in reef. So, I like to think I know quite a bit about reefing and also LED's as you can tell.

My experiences are trial and error. I have learned a lot in a relatively short period of time. Here are my major takeaways on LED lighting.

1) DO NOT adjust any LED for maximum output. Any fixture out there, I would start at about 50% and work your way up to about 70-80% MAX over the course of 4-6 weeks. LED is much different than T5 or MH. LED stays brighter all the way down, where as MH and T5 spread out more. It is very easy to bleach corals by turning them all the way up. Very easy.

2) As I said above, Kessil is the only true UV LED on the market. They don't mix too much as to harm your corals, they mix it in their spectral intelligence and it works. I believe that is why it takes corals a little while to get used to these lights. Radion Pro's and all other fixtures advertise UV, but it is just the UV spectrum, IE: 405, 420, 440, True Violet, etc. It is the color, but not true LED.

*** Even with the coloration of UV, it helps. I noticed that the AI Vega Color did NOT have the UV Spectrum. I changed to the Radion Pro and my corals responded immediately. In my opinion, it is a MUST to have that spectrum in your lighting. It is the secret coloration that will bring you to another level. ***

3) LED's are not MH. Never will be in my opinion. Metal Halide just works. You will never be able to really replace it. I have never been able to maintain the coloration or growth of SPS under LED that I have MH.

Now, with that statement, I should say that I have an Acropora Speciosa that was looking terrible under the GHL Mitras. I put it under MH and it colored back up nicely. After the MH, I went back to the Kessil A360W and it has continued to color up in places that it was bleached. It continues to grow and look great. I think the Kessil is the exception to the rule.

Why? UV, simple. It replicates the MH like no other.

The million dollar question. What do I recommend for immediate success? Kessil, there is no other substitute. I use them and I will continue to use them for the rest of my reefing days.

For those of you who have asked for help with LED's. I will be happy to set up a layout for you. If you don't want a Kessil, that is fine. I can give you a good layout that will grow corals and do great. I am so confident in that ability, I would offer a money back guarantee, but you aren't paying me, rofl.

I hope this post did not step on any toes as I didn't mean it to. As above, this was long and off the top of my head. So if you have questions, please feel free to ask.

Thanks for the welcome everyone.

Kessil is on a temp mount until I get the new one, watch in 1080 on Youtube.

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Yes, the UV used in the Kessil is true UV. UV of course is dangerous to the human eye and will kill your corals if there is too much.

A MH puts out UV, but the glass that is in between the bulb and your tank, dissipates it.

The Kessil only uses a little bit, so not to injure the corals.

LED's that advertise UV, are using the color spectrum of UV, copied from wikipedia below

Ultraviolet UV 400 – 100 nm 3.10 – 12.4 eV Ultraviolet A UVA 400 – 315 nm 3.10 – 3.94 eV long wave, black light Ultraviolet B UVB 315 – 280 nm 3.94 – 4.43 eV medium wave Ultraviolet C UVC 280 – 100 nm 4.43 – 12.4 eV short wave, germicidal Near Ultraviolet NUV 400 – 300 nm 3.10 – 4.13 eV visible to birds, insects and fish Middle Ultraviolet MUV 300 – 200 nm 4.13 – 6.20 eV Far Ultraviolet FUV 200 – 122 nm 6.20 – 10.16 eV Hydrogen Lyman-alpha H Lyman-α 122 – 121 nm 10.16– 10.25 eV Extreme Ultraviolet EUV 121 – 10 nm 10.25 – 124 eV Vacuum Ultraviolet VUV 200 – 10 nm 6.20 – 124 eV
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Wow, my brain is a little fried already today so I'll have to give this a good read in the morning. I'm a MH lover but I always have my ear to the ground for the LED train. Thank you for taking the time to share your experiences! thumbsup.gif

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Not an led expert here (never used them), but a great deal of my degree deals in the electromagnetic spectrum. From what I've read in their advertisements, radion, AI vega/hydra, and even the evergrow fixtures advertise "UV" diodes in the 410-420 nm wavelength peak, but isn't UV under 400 nm? Not even visible to the naked eye? Correct me if I'm wrong

Wouldn't 410-420 nm be just V, not UV?

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Very nice writeup btw. I had a feeling you'd recommend the kessils based on what you said you were currently running. The shimmer is fantastic you get from them, and the science makes sense, but I just wonder why when I see them in use at the LFS, why I'm underwhelmed by the coral colors. Perhaps they just haven't acclimated yet

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Majority of the LEDs advertised as the "true UV" have a spectrum close to 400nm (e.g. 402nm) and that is not technically UV since it is above 400nm.

Aye, makes sense now. So the kessils have LEDS that are at or under 400 nm?

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Perfect timing for this article! I'm trying to figure out which light to go with on my new build. I'd had the Vega color on my last tank and liked them. AI has great customer service. I was thinking about trying the Hydra 52. I wasn't having much luck with SPS in the last tank and was thinking the 52's would be better suited. Thoughts on those? I've got a 75g (48x21x18), how many kessil's would you recommend for that?


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Hey all,

Great questions. Yes, UV is a bit confusing, but any of the fixtures with UV colored LEDs will be better than the ones without. Kessil uses true UV Mixed in.

I suspect why you don't see much color on corals in your LFS using Kessil, is that they are turned over very quickly and do not have time to adapt to the Kessil's.

As I said above, it does take corals at least 4 weeks to really adapt to Kessil's in my experience. You will see good cooperation after a couple of weeks, but give it a while.

I think they Hydra 54 will do ok from AI. I still am not a big fan and would not recommend those. They do have the UV colored LEDs that the Vega Color did not, so we will see.

If you don't like the Kessil's, go with the Radion Pro and stick to their predefined setup.

Don't like either? Ok, tell me what you are keeping and I will build you a sample layout.

I want to help all I can. Hey, I might even move to TX! Lol

Thanks guys

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I'm not liking the radions mainly because of the price. Just watched several videos on the Kessil's and everyone had only great things to say about them and their effect on corals. I see they're also controllable with the Apes. Price isn't bad either. I was trying to go as sleek and streamlined as possible and my only concern over the kessil's was the wiring / bracket.

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Really nice writeup and I like seeing so many different fixtures compared by the same person (at the very least the same bias is used across the board grin.png ). I was curious how long you kept or ran each brand? (I've seen fans fail in as little as a year and personally would recommend anyone who purchases a LED fixture that uses fans to proactively buy replacement fans.) I was also curious if you have the PAR readings you took for your comparisons posted anywhere and what PAR meter you used as the LI-COR is more sensitive in the blue/violet/near UV than the Apogee?

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Nice write up

I understand this is your experience but I would personally disagree about the AI vega color I have 2 over my 120 sps tank and got color and coral growth with no issues and I can get my lights pretty blue with the white turned up. But this is my experience with them never tried any other LEDs

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Yea mine is definitely messy because it is temporary seeing as how my new A360WE comes in next week. As with all lights though, there will always be wires and there will always be ways to hide them. Definitely not a deal breaker on any fixture to me.

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For me it was just how "messy" the kessil wiring looked...most people trying to wrap the wires around the bracket.

I have my 4 kessils hanging from a bar and it's very clean. The wires are all behind the bar. I'll post a pic in a bit. It doesn't have to be messy. There are a ton of cords though with each one having a power supply and the daisy chain cords!

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Some of my corals under my current Kessil A360W

Reef Gen Legacy Burger's Birdsnest - I have had this for about 6 weeks and it has double in size, if not more, under the Kessil.

ORA Derasa Clam
Gold and Purple Wall Hammer
Another top down shot of the Derasa Clam
Everyone probably has some of these, good ol' Candy Canes
IMG_0574 by Mediumjasonp, on Flickr
Caribbean Ric
IMG_0571 by Mediumjasonp, on Flickr
Monti and Candy's again
IMG_0568 by Mediumjasonp, on Flickr
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