We know how to make them thrive. Now, the trick is
to do it with less energy and greater creativity.
article by JAKE ADAMS
or the last two decades, we have been obsessed with
keeping a successful reef tank by providing every
last little thing that corals, fishes, and other reef
organisms might need to survive and grow: more
light, more water flow, more additives, more food, more
Although keeping a reef tank was once limited by
available technology, today there are many equipment
choices and approaches that can be fine-tuned to achieve
the best environment for corals and other animals. But,
no matter how deep our pockets, most of us are becoming much more energy conscious and looking for ways to
trim the power costs of running our reef aquariums.
There are many, many ways to be more energy-efficient when setting up a marine aquarium, but the
lights and pumps consume significantly more energy
and resources than all the rest of the reefing equipment
combined. Proper selection, sizing and use of lighting
and water-moving devices can go a long way towards
making your reef more successful and less costly. Anyone can spend a small fortune on the latest and greatest
overpowered pumps and overdriven lights, but it takes
a smarter and more focused approach—even a little bit
of style—to use as little material and energy as possible
while still achieving the same success. The end result is
a reef aquarium system that not only costs less to set up
and operate but comes with bragging rights and a deep
sense of satisfaction.
Whether you are using good old normal output fluorescent tubes, new T5 bulbs, or the Holy Grail of lamps,
Plasma Arc LIFI (light fidelity), there are several factors
to consider to get the most out of your lighting while
reducing your costs and electricity consumption. Photoperiod, color temperatures, and reflectors all need to
be carefully chosen to squeeze out the maximum benefit
from high-performance reef lighting. While there are
some tricks that work to increase efficiency for all lighting types, each type of light technology has unique ways
of maximizing performance.
Just as our local fish stores may be operating with
fewer sales people, cutting hours from the photoperiod
of our reef aquarium lighting is the easiest and most obvious way to reduce energy consumption and extend the
life of the lamps.
The length of a day averages about 12 hours in the
tropics—corals might receive useful light for eight hours
a day. But the average reef aquarist has main lights on at
full power for an average of ten to twelve hours a day—
running the reef lights for considerably longer than corals need stems from our desire to grow them faster.