Review: EcoTech Radion XR15w Freshwater LED unit

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George Farmer discovers this new high-end light unit for freshwater tanks.

This is EcoTech Marine’s first LED unit designed specifically for freshwater aquariums.

First impressions were good and setting it up over my new 30cm/12in cube planted nano took around five minutes. The instructions were clear and the overall build quality, excellent.

It’s gloss black, so should suit most tastes — although I’d also like to see a white unit — and measures 18 x 18 x 4cm/7 x 7 x 1.5in with a maximum useable light spread of 60cm/24in diameter.

The light unit and the mounting bracket (RMS XR15 Tank Mount) are two separate products, so bear this in mind, as it may prove difficult to fit the unit to an aquarium without the bracket. The bracket is adjustable and will fit most commercially available aquariums. It holds the light 20cm/8in from the top of the aquarium and the bracket is rotatable. The rail also slides front-to-back, so the light spread can be adjusted. Two rail lengths are supplied making the unit suitable for aquarium sizes 30–50cm/12–20in front-to-back.

The LEDs themselves are powerful and are made by Cree and SemiLEDs. There are 15 of them, mounted in a single cluster with a maximum power output of 60W in total.

Due to the cluster pattern of the LEDs, the glitter lines produced are very prominent and may not suit all tastes. The unit boasts six LED colours: five neutral white, two deep blue, two blue, two green, two hyper red, one indigo and one UV. I’m not sure if having so much blue is necessary because when all the LEDs are on full power, the overall colour rendition is almost overwhelmingly blue/purple for my taste. This isn’t a problem because the unit has six pre-programmed light configurations ranging from very warm colour rendition (around 3,000K) to the much cooler and crisp blue/purple rendition (around 14,000K).

The colour rendition adjustment is made by the unit illuminating different LEDs at different intensities. Adjustment of the presets is performed simply by pressing the central button located on the top of the unit that cycles the different programs.

The LEDs also change gradually when cycling the presets, over a second or so, and also briefly ramp up and down when the unit is switched on and off. Light intensity is also adjusted easily using the buttons left and right of the unit. The 'up' and 'down'’ buttons are held down and the unit emits a short beep to indicate the brightness has changed.

There are 100 increments in all, so setting an appropriate light intensity should be straightforward and all settings are stored when power is off, so it can be used with a plug-in-timer. The unit has a fan that is controlled automatically. It’s not the noisiest fan I’ve heard on an LED unit, but it can be quite distracting in a quiet room.

At maximum output, the unit was very bright over my 30cm/12in cube, so I set it to just 20%. I’d suggest that only the most experienced planted tank owners would need to operate it at full power in anything under a 45cm/18in cube, due to the high light output and consequential high levels of CO2, other nutrients and maintenance required to prevent nuisance algae.

The XR15 is also controllable wirelessly via its inbuilt RF Module. You’ll need to buy the EcoTech ReefLink to allow the unit to be connected to EcoSmart Live, the company’s Internet cloud-based server. This will then allow you to control the unit from your computer, tablet or phone.

Verdict

This is a high-end premium quality light unit and the price reflects this. For the whole set-up — the unit, mounting bracket and wireless functionality — you won’t see much change out of £500. But, if you’re serious about your lighting and love your gadgets, then it’s a worthwhile consideration.

In terms of plant growth, you will be able to achieve similar results with a less expensive unit but there are few, if any, other models available at the time of writing that offer the same amount of light output and controllability in a such a small unit.

Price: EcoTech Marine XR15w Freshwater — £239.00; EcoTech RMS XR15 Tank Mount — £79.00; EcoTech ReefLink — £170 (optional).

More info: www.ecotechmarine.com

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