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    Coloration | 20K is Not the Only Way to Make Corals Pop

    Here in the US we love our 20ks. Radium, XM, Reeflux “12K”, and Helios are all popular bulbs because of their heavy blue spectrum. In actuality the kelvin ratings for these blue bulbs are marketing and only recognized within the hobby. These blue lights can do wonders for brown Acroporas and actually wash them blue, often times […]

    Here in the US we love our 20ks. Radium, XM, Reeflux “12K”, and Helios are all popular bulbs because of their heavy blue spectrum. In actuality the kelvin ratings for these blue bulbs are marketing and only recognized within the hobby. These blue lights can do wonders for brown Acroporas and actually wash them blue, often times making them appear more colorful then they actually are. The blue wavelengths can also cause florescence. However, it’s not always the best way to display corals. In fact warm temperature bulbs mixed in or alone can enhance coloration even more.

    A red coral reflects red light. If a red light is focused on this coral it will appear more red as it reflects more of that red light. With spotlights being difficult to acquire in the US there are other options available such as T5s, PCs and even lower kelvin halides to provide warmer wavelengths often omitted from the popular 20K bulbs. The effects can be quite drastic as shown below by our friend Hideki’s beautiful LPS nano, dominated by Acanthastreas and Eviota Gobies. A heavy blue color temperature highlights greens and blues very well, but often loses the vivid red and pinks. In Japan these warmer colored bulbs are occasionally called “Neon” for the coloration they bring out.

    A common bulb used in Japan to bring out purple, pinks and red is the RB37 or NZRB37. It is available as a straight tube T8 style or a CFL spot light with an internal ballast. Shown below are 5 of the common CFL style spots used. 

    We wont be seeing these anytime soon, but for the time being don’t be afraid to try new lights out. Even the CFL lights used for refugiums in the common 6.5K can provide warmer light to enhance color and provide highlights in otherwise blue dominated lighting. (Be sure to use reflectors or those with a built in flood light style PAR reflector.)

    Other options available include Osram/Sylvania Pink tubes and Pink CFLs. These are not commonly carried, but if you go to a Sylvania distributor they should be able to obtain them for you. Freshwater bulbs are also generally warmer in color temperature and provide some interesting and often overlooked options. The low wattage of these bulbs makes their addition inexpensive, and their effect barely noticeable–Halides will wash out most of the warmer light, but the effect on the coral should still be seen.

    At the end of the day these are for aesthetics not for growth or health, but the depth and variety that warmer lights can provide are often well worth the additional cost.

    6 Comments

    1. Richie
      October 29, 2008 at 12:54 PM | Permalink

      That is one of the most surreal looking tanks I’ve ever seen. I’m not sure how I feel about the coloring, its almost too much.

      I read some postings on reefcentral awhile back (maybe its T5 Q&A thread) and they recommended beginners avoid these redder lights because they fall more in the algae spectrum than the coral spectrum.

      I don’t know the total truth to that (I remember also reading an article about how spectrum is wayy less important than intensity), but something to consider. Not that beginners would really be the people trying different types of bulbs out I guess.

    2. October 29, 2008 at 1:00 PM | Permalink

      Great post eric, I try to encourage people to use more reddish light all the time. This is the best way to make orange, pink and purple anthias really pop out at you. The best bulbs I have found for this are the classic URI (now UVI) Aquasun and some type of plant “grow bulb” of the 6000K variety. I really wish we could see the right LED of these colors to include in something like the Solaris.

    3. October 29, 2008 at 2:05 PM | Permalink

      ATI Pro Color T5 bulbs are also supposed to be targeted towards bringing out the red in corals.

    4. October 29, 2008 at 8:01 PM | Permalink

      Richie,
      Red spectrums can help promote algae growth, but with proper nutrient control there is no problem using warmer spectrum bulbs. It is something to consider for high nutrient sytems.

      Jake,
      They really do make anthias pop. Re: LEDs- I’ve got a few things I have been using/working on. I’ll get around to posting them soon…

      Keith,
      The Pro Color and KZ Figi Purple do have a bit of red in them, but having seen them in action I can’t really say if they help pop the colors or not. Maybe someone who has used them long term can chime in.

      The issue with some of the traditional warmer T5s (GE 6.5K & 3K) is PAR. They can be too intense… who would have thought.

    5. James
      October 31, 2008 at 3:03 PM | Permalink

      I pulled a fuge light out to try with my tek. With just acticns theres a nice shimmer.

    6. Richie
      December 14, 2008 at 10:23 PM | Permalink

      Interesting new article recently in Advanced Aquarist (http://www.advancedaquarist.com/2008/12/aafeature1) lighting. In particular take a look at the red lighting section in it.

    2 Trackbacks

    1. […] BB450, are compact flourescents spotlights. The BB is a high kelvin blue lamp, while the RB is a warmer pink-purple lamp. These are what light the aquarium of the only known living Peppermint Angelfish (Paracentropyge […]

    2. […] Azoox tanks are popping up more and more, but very few can match the beauty or Mariusz’ 550L (145g) reef. This aquarium utilizes six 80w Korallen Zucht T5 tubes, 4 Marine Light and 2 Fiji Purple. The end result is a warmer light that highlights the orange, red and pink tones of his non-photosynthetic animals like his hundreds of Sun Corals (Tubastraea spp.), 9 Rhizotrochus typus and 24 tube anemones (Cerianthus spp.). As we’ve written before, 20K’s are not the only way to make colors pop. […]

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