Review: AquaSun 36x3w LED CREE marine aquarium light


Powerful and programmable LED lighting has been available for a few years now but at prices many of us would only consider spending on an entire set-up, not just lights, writes Bob Mehen. Fortunately, as LEDs become more and more commonplace, their price is dropping and All Pond Solutions is leading the way with this unit.

The AquaSun holds 18x 3w CREE XP-E royal blue and 18x 3w CREE XP-G 8,000-10,000K white LEDs all with 90° lens spread evenly to blend the two colours together. It gives a crisp, distinctly blue-tinged light with both colours running at 100% output.

The unit has a chunky, solid feel at first glance looking rather like a DVD player complete with blue, back-lit display. Where some LEDs on the market are basically part of a kit, requiring you to buy additional controllers, mounting brackets etc. this is the complete package.

It comes with brackets for mounting to the side of your tank (max width 80.5cm/31.7") as well as hanging fixings if you’d prefer to suspend it above — but with a weight of 5.3kg you need to be sure what you’re hanging it from!

The built-in controller allows you to adjust the output of both light colours independently, from one to 100%, and this can be done directly or via the remote control provided. It also has a built-in fan to keep the operating temperature at a maximum of 32°C/89.5°F — an important consideration for marine tanks. All this gives a power consumption at full tilt of 130w.

The kit also includes a screwdriver as well as a few spare screws. The chunky aesthetic is somewhat spoiled by a large, house brick like transformer that is designed to be strapped to the top of the unit in some applications. Using the tank-mounted brackets allowed me to hide this away under the tank, but those choosing to suspend it from the ceiling may not find this as easy to achieve.

While primarily aimed at the marine market, I tested this on my freshwater tank where the blue needed to be turned down to around 25% maximum to give the effect I wanted. Plant growth was excellent and while some 'warmth' is absent due to the intensity and colour of the LEDs, the overall effect is very natural.

Compared to my old twin T5s that ran at a similar wattage, these lights are bright and crisp with none of the 'flatness' that can be evident in fluorescents. I think the 50/50 white/blue mix needs changing to increase the balance in favour of the whites, even on marine aquaria.

The instructions are a little sketchy in places, suffering from the now all too common poor translation from Chinese to English. There are also some minor differences between the brackets in the photographs and the ones in the actual box, but it was straightforward to assemble and set-up. If you get really stuck the APS website has several useful videos to help. 

The fan is a fairly noisy thing, sounding somewhat like the early stages of a kettle boiling. If you’re one of those fishkeepers who demands silent running kit then you won’t like it. If you’re adept at ignoring annoying noises then it may not be an issue.

My only other gripe is that despite the clock on the unit allowing you to set it to the exact second, the controller for the light only allows you to set it in hour-long chunks, which removes the flexibility for more subtle lighting changes.

Verdict

This is a solidly built, easily programmable, powerful LED unit complete with all the fittings.

If you’re considering a first step into programmable LEDs, this unit is worth serious consideration. I’d love to see a dedicated freshwater version with a mix of warmer colours instead of the blues.

Price: £349.99; more info allpondsolutions.co.uk

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