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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Making my second viv and need to figure out the lighting. For my first viv (exo terra 12x12x18) I just went with compact top and a jungle dawn led - pretty straightforward. With a 20 gallon tall there's more to look into.

Anyone have any budget LED options? Everything I see posted here is $100+ which is well out of my budget.

Are there some main specs I should be looking out for? It seems like 6500K is pretty standard for vivariums but hard to find how many lumens I should be looking for for this tank.

Here is one that I found that seems like it should be quite good but maybe there is something I am overlooking:

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07V7DCX56/ref=emc_b_5_t?th=1
 

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Making my second viv and need to figure out the lighting. For my first viv (exo terra 12x12x18) I just went with compact top and a jungle dawn led - pretty straightforward. With a 20 gallon tall there's more to look into.

Anyone have any budget LED options? Everything I see posted here is $100+ which is well out of my budget.

Are there some main specs I should be looking out for? It seems like 6500K is pretty standard for vivariums but hard to find how many lumens I should be looking for for this tank.

Here is one that I found that seems like it should be quite good but maybe there is something I am overlooking:

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07V7DCX56/ref=emc_b_5_t?th=1
The light you listed will work fine for your needs. Freshwater aquarium lighting is an excellent option here since you are growing similar plants at a similar/identical depth.
 

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I have a few of those Nicrew lights over my grow-outs and they work just fine. I even like the color (and the amount of blue can be adjusted in the 2nd generation version). I have also used a lot of the lights that bulbophyllum linked, except...are you seriously using the 50 watt version over a 12x12x18???!? (apologies if you actually are - I just figured you linked a light as an example rather than the actual one). I use 10 or at most 20 watts for that size... :) Anyway, I use these for my 20 gallon vertical setups. Just ordered 2 more the other day. I stuff some extra nozzles left-over from silicone tubes under my lights :) bulbophyllum brings up a good point that you don't want the floods sitting directly on the glass. They can really heat the tank up a lot that way. Putting a little space under there helps quite a bit.

Mark
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
This is a very novice question, but what do expensive lights offer that these Nicrew ones don't? If you have the right color temperature and enough lumens what's left other than build quality and maybe some additional features?
 

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Well with the increased price of lights you get a ton of features. Generally, higher end units (lets say AI or Kessil for example) will have features such as the following:

Premium Features:
1) Ideal lenses over the LEDs to focus the light which will provide less light bleed from a display.
2) Higher Photosynthetically Active Radiation (PAR) due to the higher quality LEDs used as well as the lenses mentioned above.
3) More user end control on light spectrum and intensity.
4) Built in/optional controllers and timers (AI built into the unit, Kessil has an optional hand held controller that plugs into the fixture)
5) Web/App able control - AI has this built into all of their lights, Kessil has this option for limited products now and may require third party hardware.
6) Smaller form factors
7) Quality fit and finish of a product

If you're looking for something that works and don't have space limitations, a NICREW LED light will be more than enough. I use these on planted aquariums and grow outs and I get amazing results. I mainly use AI and Kessil units for my reef tanks, but am very tempted to use either of the two brands for a Viv because of the control I can get without having to whip up a DIY solution or rely on additional hardware. If you're looking for a simple on/off timed feature you're ok with a NICREW and a mechanical or digital plugin timer that will turn the fixtures on for you. Hell, if you want you can tie it into today's all so popular home automation with Alexa or Google Home with a smart plug. The kicker is if you want a sun rise and sun set look that's done through Pulse Width Modulation (PWM) which isn't something all lights can be modified to do. AI and Kessil have that all worked out with their controllers and or software and you don't have to go out of you way to buy a man-in-the-middle device such as a timer to control on/off functions of the light because it's built into the product.

There is only one problem I have with Kessil and AI, you WILL have to clean them regularly. Expect to turn off the lights once a month to cool them down and take a can of compressed air and blow out the fan area. The fans not only are there to cool down the LED heat sinks, but they also cool down the internal electronics that control the lights. If you're sinking $300 into a light fixture you want it to last as long as possible, right? I find that this is a small price to pay when it comes to maintaining a setup.If you want a set and forget system NICREW is your friend, plus worst case scenario if a $40 fixture fails, you can get a replacement without too much loss out of pocket for yourself. That said though, I have yet to lose a NICREW light, and I have lost AI and Kessil lights over the years.
 

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This is a very novice question, but what do expensive lights offer that these Nicrew ones don't? If you have the right color temperature and enough lumens what's left other than build quality and maybe some additional features?
I personally will not use a viv light that isn't easily dimmable. I change lighting levels according to season (temp control), frog behavior ("come out, come out, wherever you are..."), plant growth (high light to grow in the viv, then back way off for long-term), etc. That Nicrew one dims, I see, but really 'bargain' LEDs don't always do so.
 

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are you seriously using the 50 watt version over a 12x12x18???!? (apologies if you actually are - I just figured you linked a light as an example rather than the actual one). I use 10 or at most 20 watts for that size... :)

Mark[/QUOTE]

Oh shoot. Sorry. I have the 10 watt version. The 50 watt was what came up when I clicked on my past orders. I don't know why. Thank you for pointing that out.

gary
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Well with the increased price of lights you get a ton of features. Generally, higher end units (lets say AI or Kessil for example) will have features such as the following:

Premium Features:
1) Ideal lenses over the LEDs to focus the light which will provide less light bleed from a display.
2) Higher Photosynthetically Active Radiation (PAR) due to the higher quality LEDs used as well as the lenses mentioned above.
3) More user end control on light spectrum and intensity.
4) Built in/optional controllers and timers (AI built into the unit, Kessil has an optional hand held controller that plugs into the fixture)
5) Web/App able control - AI has this built into all of their lights, Kessil has this option for limited products now and may require third party hardware.
6) Smaller form factors
7) Quality fit and finish of a product

If you're looking for something that works and don't have space limitations, a NICREW LED light will be more than enough. I use these on planted aquariums and grow outs and I get amazing results. I mainly use AI and Kessil units for my reef tanks, but am very tempted to use either of the two brands for a Viv because of the control I can get without having to whip up a DIY solution or rely on additional hardware. If you're looking for a simple on/off timed feature you're ok with a NICREW and a mechanical or digital plugin timer that will turn the fixtures on for you. Hell, if you want you can tie it into today's all so popular home automation with Alexa or Google Home with a smart plug. The kicker is if you want a sun rise and sun set look that's done through Pulse Width Modulation (PWM) which isn't something all lights can be modified to do. AI and Kessil have that all worked out with their controllers and or software and you don't have to go out of you way to buy a man-in-the-middle device such as a timer to control on/off functions of the light because it's built into the product.

There is only one problem I have with Kessil and AI, you WILL have to clean them regularly. Expect to turn off the lights once a month to cool them down and take a can of compressed air and blow out the fan area. The fans not only are there to cool down the LED heat sinks, but they also cool down the internal electronics that control the lights. If you're sinking $300 into a light fixture you want it to last as long as possible, right? I find that this is a small price to pay when it comes to maintaining a setup.If you want a set and forget system NICREW is your friend, plus worst case scenario if a $40 fixture fails, you can get a replacement without too much loss out of pocket for yourself. That said though, I have yet to lose a NICREW light, and I have lost AI and Kessil lights over the years.
All this info is super helpful! Thanks for taking the time to explain. What are your thoughts on the red and blue LEDs mixed in with the white ones? Do they add any benefit? Are they noticeable/ugly to the human eye?
 

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It's hard to just say red and blue because certain wavelengths in the visible red and visible blue are useful, but that doesn't make all red and blue equal. Plants require wavelengths between 400nm and 750nm within the visible light spectrum. Plants also can benefit from the UVA and UVB wavelengths, but there are no hobby grade UV producing LED units on the market as of yet.

You can spend months if not years researching and testing lights with PAR meters in your enclosure, but to save the time and effort I'd just recommend sticking with lighting units that are recommended by hobbyists. Everyone's mileage may vary when it comes to one fixture as no Viv setup is cookie cutter. No one has the same plants in the same place or hardscape in the same area that may block and/or obscure light or bring other plants higher and lower into the effective PAR range.

One thing about cheaper lights are that if you have a water feature you may see a disco ball effect of lighting when it hits the water. Some fixtures are more prominent about it than others. Just food for thought.
 

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Oh shoot. Sorry. I have the 10 watt version. The 50 watt was what came up when I clicked on my past orders. I don't know why. Thank you for pointing that out.

gary
I had a feeling :) All of those lights look the same when you are looking for them on Amazon. Thanks for clarifying! I agree with you that those are the best cheap fixture out there, especially for small, square footprint tanks.

Mark
 

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For a 24 inch vivarium do you think the 22 inch fixture is better or the 16 inch?
I always get the longest one that fits completely over the tank, regardless of which linear light we are talking about. The cost is pretty close, isn't it?

SM, these lights can be dimmed manually, even white and blue independently of each other, but I have no idea if they can be controlled to dim incrementally. I only ever use simple on-off timers.

Mark
 

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SM, these lights can be dimmed manually, even white and blue independently of each other, but I have no idea if they can be controlled to dim incrementally. I only ever use simple on-off timers.
Yes, I saw that; the independent dimming is a really nice feature, since many aquarium lights are more blue-shifted than viv keepers often prefer.

I only have one viv light that can be programmed to ramp the dimming (AI Prime). I find a lot of utility in being able to manually dim the lights at all -- so those 'work light' type lights and Sunblaster LEDs wouldn't be high on my list of decent lights, in spite of their other virtues.
 

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Besides NICREW, my go to Aquarium LED brand is Finnex if I'm not dropping money into AI or Kessil. Finnex lights are a little more developed for planted aquaria and some even have the ramping control for brightness per LED channel setup to an IR remote. From there you can program your light cycle or even tinker with effects such as cloud coverage or lightning storms. Great thing about the non controllable Finnex lights are they mainly focus on white channels and red channels and I've had great success without getting washed out with blue wavelengths.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
I ended up going with the Nicrew light because it seemed light to get the next "step up" in quality I would've had to spend about double the money. We'll see when it arrives though, Amazon's return policy is quite good.

Thank you everyone for taking the time to respond and explain things to me!
 

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I ended up going with the Nicrew light because it seemed light to get the next "step up" in quality I would've had to spend about double the money. We'll see when it arrives though, Amazon's return policy is quite good.

Thank you everyone for taking the time to respond and explain things to me!
How did you end up liking your NICREW light and which version did you go with? I'm in between the NICREW or a spectral designs one (for a 24x18x24). Thanks!
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
How did you end up liking your NICREW light and which version did you go with? I'm in between the NICREW or a spectral designs one (for a 24x18x24). Thanks!
Could've sworn I had responded to this, sorry for the delay as you probably already made your purchase. I have been very pleased with my Nicrew light so far. I got the ClassicLED Gen 2. I like that both the blue and white lights are dimmable independently. That being said all I have to compare to is a jungle dawn LED in a 12x12x18.
 

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I have been using the Classic LED Gen 2 for a little over a month on my new build. No issues so far but to be honest based on price it isn't something I expect much from. It should work how it says it should out of the box but it clearly is a a lower quality product. I would suspect the dimming and color selection to honestly go first. That said it is a light and by nature disposable.

At the price range you know they are using the most budget friendly phosphor coated LED diode available and color shift most certainly will occur but typically goes more yellow. The light doesn't run warm but still no active cooling which should further increase the rate of diode degradation. The budget power supply/driver will also likely play into effect.

Quality LED lighting, that anyone from reefing and high end planted tanks is familiar with, will be leaps and bounds superior in build quality and products used (LED diodes being the big one). That said see much of the those products more about selling bells and whistles to techie types.

I would buy one again just based on initial experience. I will replace once I note issues in plants and figure around 2 to 3 years of use is what to expect. With my current plant rack I notice issues in blooming, growth and color in about 3 years using a combination of bulbs on each level.
 
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