Review: Fluval 16W Aquasky LED light

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Nathan Hill plays with this latest lighting offering from Rolf C. Hagen.

Let me start off with a recap of how I felt about the last lot of Fluval LED lights. I was simultaneously overjoyed and underwhelmed, all in one package. I loved the shape of the bars, I loved the price and I loved how they were, for the best part, bulletproof. I hated the anaemic look of the light they emitted, and hated the way corals just looked ‘meh’ underneath them. And then I noticed that corals loved the ‘meh’ light and grew like Jack’s giant beanstalk underneath the things. 

What you couldn’t do before was put them on a timer, because of the annoying button activation, and you couldn’t alter the spectrum. 

In steps Fluval’s LED Mk II. Here’s the formal Fluval commentary on it: "Pairing bright White and RGB LEDs, Aquasky offers infinite colour blends and 11 exciting sky effects for a customised environment that can be controlled from the palm of your hand."

Let me unpackage some of that. The first claim, that there’s a mix of white and RGB diodes is entirely true. They’re punchy, too, at 16W for a roughly 55cm long light bar. Does Aquasky offer infinite colour blends? They’re in tricky territory there, because there are only so many colours in the universe. 

Eleven exciting sky effects? Sort of. There’s blue, less blue, and less blue again (shades of moon), cloudy, cloudier, even cloudier and cloudiest, and then there are three storm settings (dark and flashy, darker and flashy, and just flashy). I’m not sure about the 11th effect — I press the button and not much seems to happen. 

The effects I really am not fussed about, though. It’s like when somebody puts a storm setting on a £5,000 light. I take one look, think to myself 'never going to use that' and feel sorry for the poor soul who wasted his life putting it in. The effects for me are not the clincher for this deal, but then I do get out of my house quite regularly. The only part of the ‘gimmicky’ side of the light that makes me smile is the sunrise and sunset effects. Read that as fade on and fade off, and you get the idea.

Controlled from the palm of your hand? Oh yes. Ohhhhh yes. A snazzy remote, with a layout so simple and obvious it could have been designed by Fisher-Price, takes care of everything. Here’s where the action starts. 

You’ve got six colour pre-sets on the remote, but not the kind of garish, all out colour varieties that I have come to hate. No, press blue, and you get a subtle shift in spectrum. Likewise violet, white, orange and yellow. It’s nice. 

From there, you can alter colours to suit yourself, boosting individual channels in the RGB or just the white, and then you can save four of these tailored combinations. Controllability at last! The packaging says that you have a spectral spread from 3000 to 25,000K, but although I can easily pick out the high end, I’m not sure how to get things as low as 3000K. Or I might just be being stupid. 

The light is made up from a mixture of 28 6500K, and 14 RGB diodes (42 total) and it belts out a claimed 1100 lumens. 

The Aquasky doesn’t stop there. Got a canopy on your tank with fitted T5 or T8 lights? Can’t remove them without spoiling the look of the tank? Fluval has this covered. On the ends of the extendable mounting arms, you can add mounting brackets that fit straight in to your fluorescent ballasts. 

The issue of remote timing is now taken care of courtesy of the inline controller (sold separately) which can run up to two lights independently (it’s a bit of a chore to program each in, but it’s no biggie). 

The spread of light is nice and wide at 120° from each LED, meaning you avoid that annoying spotlighting effect in the tank, with some areas of scorched earth next to abyssal dark. It also means you can have the light set much closer to the water than many other brands, which in turn means more energy spent illuminating your tank, and less energy lighting the whole room with light spill. 

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The Aquasky is suited for both fresh and marine tanks, but there’s no specific mention of coral growth. At this stage I honestly have no clue how it’ll compare with the original models, but given how much I was surprised first time around, I hope I’ll be equally pleased by the new offering. 

If it’s anything like its predecessor, it’ll stand up to the occasional accidental dunking. I drowned a few of the old lights, and though I panicked every time, I never had a strip light die that way on me. 

There are four sizes to choose from: 12W, 38–61cm; 16W, 53–83cm; 25W, 83.5–106.5cm; and 30W, 99–130cm. Extra peace of mind should come with the three-year warranty Fluval is offering, but diode life is expected to be around 50,000 hours upwards.

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Digital double lamp timer

Instead of having to switch on and off lights manually, this light can be controlled with the in-line timer, which includes a sunrise and sunset function. Timer price around £20 to £25 in stores.

Verdict

I like lots, feel indifferent about the effects, and dislike the little remote sensor that needs to be stuck on to the tank/lid/wherever in order for the buttons to work. Other than that, this light is going places. 

Ease of use:

4/5

Features:

4/5

Value for money:

4/5

Overall:

4/5

Price:

£99.99 RRP, on sale around £79.99.

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