Reader review: iQuatics Aqualumi Universal T5 light bar

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We asked PFK reader Michael Hughes to take a look at this latest retrofit lighting offering from iQuatics.

My immediate thought when opening the Aqualumi light bar was how heavy the unit was when compared to my existing Juwel counterpart. It’s only upon more vigorous inspection that you realise the unit consists of a complete metal frame, as opposed to a plastic frame on the Juwel design.

The design is simple but effective, for those who aren’t particularly tech savvy, and installation is so straightforward that I doubt you’d even need to refer to the included instructions when putting the unit together. Each tube slots into the lighting extension arms, where there are waterproofing seals and screw caps to ensure it’s a tight, safe fit.

Once each arm has been completed, inserting them on to the main unit can be a little tricky. Overall it took less than 30 minutes to remove the old lighting unit, build the Iquatics Aqualumi and fit it to my tank.

The unit consists of two plugs, with one plug operating the middle two tubes and the second plug operating the outer two tubes. 

Note that there is no switch on any part of the lighting unit, which I think could be frustrating if you don’t use timers like me. That said, because there are two separate power inputs, you get great flexibility on the lighting intensity and duration.

Once in place I was duly impressed at how smoothly the standard Juwel cover flaps integrate into the unit. 

Fitted to the tank, the four-tube light unit takes up most of the top of the tank, which means that there’s less arm space for manual work within the aquarium. For maintenance purposes, I have to remove the unit or balance on the side of the tank.

I was moving from the standard (twin tube) Juwel T5 HiLite tubes, offering a total of 56W of light, compared to the double output of the four-tube Aqualumi which is a total of 112W plus reflectors. To avoid melting my plants or causing an algae explosion, I initially set up the lights on a staggered on/off cycle.

My outer two tubes with reflectors would come on for three hours, followed by the inner two tubes (minus reflectors) for the last hour. The next few weeks involved monitoring the plants and slowly increasing the lighting intensity and duration. 

The sudden boost of light is something that planted aquarium owners will want to keep in mind.

Pros

  • Well-built unit.
  • Simple and easy to use.
  • Fits existing Juwel covers and integrates seamlessly.
  • Two plugs offer greater flexibility to lighting set up.

Cons

  • No individual switch for the lights, so if you don’t use timers, turning the lights off will mean unplugging them.
  • Once the unit is place, there is little room to get your hands into the aquarium for cleaning and maintenance
  • Currently only one tube type for tropical.

Verdict

The Aqualumi is a great unit which has really transformed my plants and my overall viewing of the fish, but it’s up against stiff competition, as for a similar price I could buy an LED set-up. This gives the space I need to access the tank and doesn’t produce the heat of the T5 bulbs.

However, if your existing Juwel lights do break, or don’t produce a high enough light intensity, and you’re not looking for LED, then I can highly recommend this unit.