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Old 11/05/2011, 10:22 AM   #1
heckeng
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Another AI Sol Blue review

Yesterday I installed 3 AI Sol Blues on my 90 gallon Zoa/Ric tank. They have taken the place of a 2x250w and 2 54w T5 Maristar MH fixture. I was using Phoenix 14k bulbs which are fantastic color-wise. I would have never made the switch as I was completely happy with my current bulb combination of Phoenix and ATI true actinic bulbs but on a trip to Florida and saw a cube that a local shop had set up using a single AI Sol Blue. I was shocked at the colors and fluorescense that the corals had in that tank. So. . . I ordered my Sols and took down the Maristar. If the Sols prove to be a good investment, I will sell the Maristar and my collection of 4 sets of bulbs that I used to determine what color/bulb I liked the best. That is an annoying prospect but If I am happier with the tank, I won't mind it too much I think.

They were all packaged well when I unpacked them. I got the 36" rail for the 48" tank as well. I was aware through my recent reading load on RC that some people didn't like the hanging fixture and that the perceived light level is deceiving on these units. Knowing that, I assembled the rail system which was a pretty decent seeming design in all honesty. My only two suggestions to them are that I would rather have metal end caps instead of the plastic, even though the plastic does the job and looks fine. And, I think there should be some sort of built-in shop in the end of the rails to eliminate the potential for a light module to slide off of the rail unintentionally if you are adjusting the rail etc. This did not happen to me but I could see it being an issue. To act as a safety device, after zip-tying all of the cables neatly in place behind the back rail, I also added a tie to the ends of the rear rail to make it impossible to remove the light modules without removing the zip tie.

Once I fired up the lights, I was amazed at the light output potential. I quickly ramped things down though as I know these things have a tendency to fry corals on high levels. The controller was confusing for about 10 seconds, then it all made sense. The amount of control and flexibility in these lights and the controller is unbelievable. I will not miss my duo of staged mechanical/electrical Home Depot timers that would turn on the various lights from my MH fixture. The ramping feature is also awesome, so instead of lights coming on all at once, you can have them ramp up gradually like would happen naturally through the day.

I dialed the lights in initially at 30% W, 35% B, and 35% RB. That should be a power consumption of only around 70 watts. I figured I would be more than safe with these numbers since I was coming off of 600Watts of Phoenix 14k bulb/ATI T5. I know light output is completely different from wattage, but it's hard not to try and compare wattages even a little. I was wrong though. I watched the tank pretty heavily just for this sort of thing and one light yellow colony of zoas directly under but 14" under the water level started to expel some of their zooxanthella in little streams out of their mouths by the late afternoon. I then dialed back the lights to 25%/30%/30%. We will see how that goes today.

After playing with these lights a little, I think the reason the bleaching happens with these LEDs is actually from two sources. The first is that they are so focused. Even at 10-12 inches above the water surface, I am right on the edge of getting any light spillage over the tops of the tank, but I really don't get much if any at all at this level, so ALL of the light they LEDs put out goes into the tank. The second source of the bleaching I believe is from the enormous amount of blue spectrum from the Blue and Royal Blue LEDs. These diodes are the ones that make the colors fluoresce and look so amazing. These diodes also put out SOO much more intensity than with T5 supplementation and MH bulbs I was using. I have used T5 and PC on tanks before as well and liked them because of the great coloration you can get with them including the fluorescence, but in my opinion, the T5 and PC bulbs still don't put nearly the same amount of light on the corals compared to the LEDs.

One note on the coloration of the white LEDs as well. I was expecting a cool blue light from them because they are reportedly "cool white" diodes, but it is actually more yellow and green, especially on the higher percentages. I expect them to bring out more of the warmer colors than I had originally guessed once I can get the output a little higher and don't need to worry about burning the corals.

I took some pictures, but I can not get my camera to capture what things look like at all. There is far less shadowing than with my 2 MH bulbs, simply due to having basically 3 point sources of light that are 5" x 12". For what it is worth, take my word that the colors of almost all of my zoas and ricordia have improved with the only possible exception being 2 light yellow colonies of zoas that I think will be better under more white light than the blue/white mix I have at this stage of the acclimation process. ALL of the other zoas and ricordia are exhibiting more overall coloration and variation in colors than have ever shown up before. The key to make everything work for me will be getting the white light percentage up a little higher. I will post back as I ramp things up and let you know if I get those light yellow's to come back with the higher white diode outputs.

If I can get some pictures to turn out at all, I'll post them as well.


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Old 11/05/2011, 10:43 AM   #2
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Thanks for sharing the review. I am also happy with my AI thus far. Been trying to get pictures, but I need to learn more about my camera. They all turn out way too blue.


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Old 11/05/2011, 10:45 AM   #3
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glad to see that you are liking them

i just ordered the balck module but already running 4 on my 200 gallon sps tank

im in ST louis, too


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Old 11/05/2011, 12:36 PM   #4
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I think I've found a pretty good percentage range for my sps (acros, monti's, and other misc sps) . 30% 6500k, 50% blue, and 10%royal blue. My sps don't like the Royal blue for some reason. I mainly use the rb for moonlights.


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Old 11/05/2011, 01:53 PM   #5
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So are any of you guys sorry you made the switch? I am thinking about changing over to them and dumping my 250 watt radium metal halide over my 34 gallon sps nano tank!

Thanks!


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Old 11/05/2011, 02:29 PM   #6
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I think if you liked Phoenix or Radium bulbs, it is very easy to replicate that color temp with these fixtures. I believe that you can get towards a 12k Reeflux color temp if you ramp up the whites some. So far, I'm not seeing any negatives other than having to go slowly. That is with only a 2 day review though


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Old 11/05/2011, 02:41 PM   #7
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heckeng,
I love the Radium colors! I think the AI's are the way to go. Very much so because intensities and colors are all adjustable.
Who has the best prices on them? I thought I saw somewhere they are selling now for 379.00 becasue the new Phoenix models are getting ready to launch?

Thank you PS Try to post some pics! I would love to see them!


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Old 11/05/2011, 02:43 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by meshwheel View Post
So are any of you guys sorry you made the switch? I am thinking about changing over to them and dumping my 250 watt radium metal halide over my 34 gallon sps nano tank!

Thanks!
I am happy, Just switched myself. Long time halide user, and I really like these lights!
Colors have a nice pop!
Nice review hecking!


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Old 11/05/2011, 03:35 PM   #9
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AWESOME MAN! I am pretty excited to get my hands on one! Creetin, are you keeping SPS corals under yours?


Thanks!


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Old 11/05/2011, 03:49 PM   #10
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Yes about 25% is sps I may get a couple more, But mainly lps and zoa's.


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Old 11/05/2011, 03:52 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by meshwheel View Post
heckeng,
I love the Radium colors! I think the AI's are the way to go. Very much so because intensities and colors are all adjustable.
Who has the best prices on them? I thought I saw somewhere they are selling now for 379.00 becasue the new Phoenix models are getting ready to launch?

Thank you PS Try to post some pics! I would love to see them!
AS is offering 5% off and many will price match. AS is good to deal with so i would not worry Free shipping is also one other thing to look at.
You may find it better to wait till black friday sales. Dunno how good they will be but may be a good one to wait for.


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Old 11/05/2011, 04:14 PM   #12
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Thank you Creetin! Awesome they are made in the USA too! Man, so I will go from 250 watts down to about 50 watts max! IT's almost timne to replace my Radium bulb too. I am up to 11 hours on it!
Did you get to dial in teh exact color you like with yours?

Thanks!


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Old 11/05/2011, 08:40 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by meshwheel View Post
Thank you Creetin! Awesome they are made in the USA too! Man, so I will go from 250 watts down to about 50 watts max! IT's almost timne to replace my Radium bulb too. I am up to 11 hours on it!
Did you get to dial in teh exact color you like with yours?

Thanks!
Yes, I Like a little more blue so its a little more blue than a phoenix 14k.
And i like to blue it up a little bit and have the royals cranked and watch the reds and greens GLOW. LOL


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Old 11/05/2011, 11:12 PM   #14
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I don't know how you guys running Sol Blues at 40-50% are not getting brown SPS corals. I found that at lower white intensities my corals browned. I run my Sol Blues at 100/100/100 for six hours daily, besides ramp up and down (12 hour photoperiod total, factory optics), and when I went to the higher intensities my SPS colors returned. I have nine on a 300 gallon.


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Old 11/06/2011, 06:44 AM   #15
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How high above water level are you installing yours?


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Old 11/06/2011, 07:48 AM   #16
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How high above water level are you installing yours?
I have mine 10" above the water line.


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Old 11/06/2011, 08:58 AM   #17
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There are many variable's as to why your having to run yours at 100%. Is your tank a open top? Are you using carbon in your system? Tank height, etc.
Never heard of anyone yest having to run them at 100%.


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Old 11/06/2011, 09:21 AM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by meshwheel View Post
There are many variable's as to why your having to run yours at 100%. Is your tank a open top? Are you using carbon in your system? Tank height, etc.
Never heard of anyone yest having to run them at 100%.
Many people with very successful SPS tanks run theirs at or near 100% intensity or a large chunk of their photoperiod.

One of the nicest SPS tanks you will see, AIs run at 100% 6 hours daily:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q_LWF2mAs1U

Here, AIs run at 90%: http://www.reefcentral.com/forums/sh....php?t=2029329



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Old 11/06/2011, 10:15 AM   #19
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You just answered your own question. SIX HOURS A DAY!!!! Try ramping them down and you could run them 10-12 hours per day.
When I get mine, I doubt I will want to clutter my tank top with additional LED's. So mine will be ramped down to run 12 hours per day.
I have been in the hobby almost 30 years and have had enough halides and T5's to know this...


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Old 11/06/2011, 10:21 AM   #20
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Thanks for the links! Great tanks and I have seen them both. I really love the room decor on the larger tank!


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Old 11/06/2011, 03:46 PM   #21
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Old 11/06/2011, 03:53 PM   #22
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A couple more:















None of the pics I have taken were photoshopped. What you are seeing is about 80% correct to how it appears in person (at least how my computer is showing them). What is not apparent on the pictures is the amount of fluorescense that exists. I believe the camera picks up so much more blue light that our eyes doesn't see that it drowns out the other colors? Every one of the 30 or so types of zoas shows some sort of awesome coloration that the pics don't pick up on.

The lighting still does look dim compared to my MH setup but I am only running around 30% overall brightness. Eventually I hope that will be fixed.

The pics that are actinic looking are using 30% B and 30% RB, they just don't have the white on which is surprising because when the white is on and the blue LEDS are at the same level, the tank is completely different looking as the white drowns out the blues.

And Yes, I know, the tank is a little cluttered with all of the frags etc in it. I am planning on getting rid of many of them sometime soon! So, cut me some slack on the tityness aspect of it!


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Old 11/06/2011, 04:14 PM   #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by meshwheel View Post
You just answered your own question. SIX HOURS A DAY!!!! Try ramping them down and you could run them 10-12 hours per day.
When I get mine, I doubt I will want to clutter my tank top with additional LED's. So mine will be ramped down to run 12 hours per day.
I have been in the hobby almost 30 years and have had enough halides and T5's to know this...
The tanks I gave you links on are ramped up and down for a total photoperiod of around 12 hours a day, with a period of six hours at 100% in the middle (or 90%, depending on which tank you look at), with a 3 hour intensity ramp up before and 3 hour intensity ramp down after (12 hours total). Ramp up and down at low intensity will not do a lot for the corals from a photosynthesis standpoint. It is the high intensity period in the middle where the corals get the bulk of their beneficial light. This is similar to a metal halide photoperiod needing to be 7 hours or so to satisfy the light needs of the corals, with anything longer being just for looks without any real benefit to the corals themselves.

I do a 12 hour photoperiod, 3 hour ramp up to 100%, 100% for 6 hours, and a 3 hour ramp down, total of 12 hour photoperiod. You may not have seen it, but it is in post #14.

Frankly, I wasn't asking for advice about my Sol Blues, just commenting on how there seems to be so much talk on RC about how low you have to set the white LED intensity, but you never see posted pictures of thriving, colorful, growing SPS reef tanks running the Sol blues at 40% or similar, but you can find documentation of thriving SPS tanks using higher intensity percentages.

There are also many complaints about SPS browning r/t the use of Sol Blues, and the common thread is is that people think they can get away with using fewer units than they can, and they buy into the low intensity scenario and their corals brown out on them.

You cannot think of a single Sol Blue as a direct replacement for a 250 watt halide for two reasons. The Sol Blue PAR measurements are taken at 100% for all three LED types, and if you are running at anything less, then you are not at that equivalent level. Run your LEDS at 50/50/50 and you are at quite a bit less than one 250 watt halide. Also, the directionality of these modules makes it even harder to use that equivalency on larger tanks, unless you are lighting directly over your SPS corals. Raise the light up for better spread, and you dramatically decrease the PAR getting to your corals, which goes for halide, T5 or LED.

Your situation my be a bit different r/t the small size of your reef. What is your tank, 20"x20"x20"? A single Sol Blue might work great for your application, as you don't need a lot of spread because your tank is small. People run into trouble when they use too few modules for the size of their tank and/or the type of corals they want to keep. A 120 gallon might be fine with two modules if you have a softy/LPS tank, but try that with an SPS dominant tank and you will probably find you need 3 or 4 units to keep your SPS corals colorful if you want to place them anywhere in the tank, outside of lighting a coral island type aquascape. I've been in the hobby sine I was 12, which puts me at 37 years keeping aquariums. An old timer like you.



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Old 11/06/2011, 05:11 PM   #24
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AcroporaAddict,
Well yopu certianly know your stuff! More so then I with the LED's as I have never owned any!
Those are great points and well taken here! Thank you! My current tank is 24x14x18. However, I am upgrading to a 36 wide x16x30 deep bow front.
I see some guys hand them parallel to the tank. I am curious if I could get by with one on the bow front mounted long was with 70 degree lenses????
I have a PAR meter, so I can get some numbers once I get the light to compare with my old halide with coral placement.
I thought if I got it early I could hang it over my smaller 24 inch tank until I get ready for the move.
If it's not enough I can purchase another module. Are you running all sol blues over your tank?
Thank you! Great info! My ears are smoking now...................lol


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Old 11/06/2011, 05:15 PM   #25
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Heckeng,
Great pictures! You reef is looking very nice. I can really see the corals popping in the really blue 4th picture down! They look fabulous! I cannot wait to get mine.
Thank you


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