Top reasons why Metal Halides with T5 HO is superior lighting for a reef tank to even the most “high end” LEDs currently available to hobbyists and why so many hobbyists have already switched back or are switching back:
• Much Better Coral Growth (especially SPS corals) – This is a big one and we hear it all the time. Metal halides with T5 provide hobbyists with simply better results in terms of coral growth. Quicker and more sustained coral growth especially SPS corals (small polyp stony corals). Healthier corals with better polyp extension. This is just a fact. While LEDs will grow coral, they simply do not grow acropora at anywhere near the rate or success as metal halides do. It's not even close. Growth from LEDs is limited to mainly on top of the coral only - not inside the coral and underneath. The lack of light inside the coral decreases growth and can lead to their mortality. When you switch to Metal Halide + T5 it reverses their decline from LEDs and show massive improvement in coral health. So, if you are thinking of having a mixed reef aquarium, an SPS dominant aquarium or want to keep any type of acropora and you want the best results for that tank – Metal Halides are by far the superior lighting solution to LEDs.
• Better Coral Color and Intensity – Many hobbyists who have used all types of lighting tell us they simply have better color out of their fish and corals, especially SPS, under the right metal halide and T5 lighting combination. The glow and the hue from acropora under Metal Halide with T5 cannot be matched by LEDs. Fish and coral stand out more. Your coral colors are much more true.
• No Disco Ball Effect – Many LED tanks often have that “disco ball” effect. The shimmer in the tank looks unnatural. It appears you’ve landed in Studio 54 or in the middle of a rave party. Some tanks are just difficult to look at because of a lack of light blend. You end up seeing the individual colors of the LEDs in your sand bed. Lame! You don’t get that with metal halide with T5. With metal halides, you have a more natural “quality” sunlight effect. Metal Halides give the tank a more aesthetically pleasing shimmer effect without the disco ball look.
• No Shadowing Problems like with LEDs – Even the most “high end” LEDs create shadowing in your corals. This is a major problem of LEDs. You don’t get this when you use metal halides with T5. This is because Metal halides with T5 give you a better light spread versus LEDs and you do NOT have any shadowing problem like with LEDs. LEDs are intense directly under the diode (hotspots which create stressed, oddly shaped corals) but lose their intensity much quicker as you spread out only just a few inches from the center and don’t cover an aquarium as well as metal halide with T5 leading to this shadowing problem. With metal halide and T5, you have no shadowing underneath or inside your corals like you do with LEDs. You see all parts to your corals better with no shadowing.
• Electrical Savings - NOT what it is made out to be with LEDs – this is because with LEDs, heaters are often running all day long. This is often overlooked. The result of a 200 – 500 watt heater on all day really adds up! This added power consumption negates the expected cost savings in electricity you thought you were getting by using LEDs.
• LEDs often require TWICE the number of units than their MFG recommendation – It’s true. If you want to limit the shadowing from LEDs in SPS tanks and if you want SPS corals to grow like they do under metal halides, you need to purchase TWICE as many LED lights as what the manufacturers suggest. You need to blanket your tank with LEDs to get the same coverage as you do with metal halides. This is because with metal halides you have a much better light spread and more thorough coverage in your aquarium. LEDs are intense directly under the light but quickly lose par as you leave just inches from their center. This leads to shadowing, lack of color and less coral growth. You could end up spending $5,000 on “high end” LEDs or get better results and spend only $1,000 on metal halides with T5.
• Upfront Costs are much Higher with LEDs - if you do achieve any cost savings with LEDs, it generally will take several years at least before you see a breakeven point. At that time, you will probably want to upgrade your LEDs to a different, “latest and greatest” which will cost you even more money to do so and that’s if your LED light is still working! How many times have we heard LEDs last “50,000” hours yet with even the “high end” LEDs several of the diodes in their systems fail within 1-2 years. Most LED companies who say their light lasts "50,000" hours give you only a 1 year warranty on their product!
• Set It and Forget It – with metal halide and T5 lighting, you don’t have to continuously “dial in” your settings to find the right look for your tank like you do with high end LEDs. With metal halide and T5, it is a simple plug and play system to enjoy the results. It is much more user friendly. You have dawn to dusk lighting and you don’t have to consistently worry about finding the right look from your LED. You simply plug it iin and get true coral color, a pop to your tank and a natural shimmer effect in your water.
For the past 7 years, we have heard “LEDs are good but they are not 'there yet'". When are they going to be “there”? At this point and after all this time, it’s not going to happen. We’ve waited long enough for LEDs to top Metal Halides and they just haven’t. Metal Halides + T5 is just a better lighting solution for a reef aquarium especially if you plan on keeping SPS and acropora.
If you care about your tank enough to have the best lighting over it, you will choose MH + T5 over LEDs.