Lighting Questions. VHO vs HO vs reflectors

Bigwyll

New member
Okay so my tank is set up and I prematurely purchased two 24" dual tube PC lights at 65watts each. Now I know that this will not be enough light without placing my coral very high in the tank I have some questions regarding T-5 set ups. I chose to go with T-5 over MH because the MH assembly confuses me. Purchasing separate bulb, ballast, reflectors, and housing is beyond my understanding this early in the hobby.

I have a 55 gallon 48" x 12" x 24". I am looking for a lighting system that will give me the ability to any coral in my tank regardless of light requirements. From what I have read about lighting I am looking for 200w for moderate lighting or 400w for great lighting. A member of a forum I read advised me that with the technological upgrades in lighting systems that watts per gallon are not a good measurement anymore. I should look for a T-5 system with 4 bulbs and I would be fine with the depth of my tank. In another thread I have read a person with a smaller tank but with the same depth was asking about the Nova Extreme lighting system with 4 bulbs. He was advised against purchasing the base system and encouraged to purchase the pro system because it has better reflectors.

I understand that everyone has a opinion on this and that. And I am on another forum asking for another opinion to confuse me more. I also understand it is almost impossible for someone to admit that the system that they spent money on is over priced and not worth it. But ultimately I want to purchase a T-5 lighting system that will allow me to purchase the coral I want and not have to worry too much about if I have enough light or too much light. Now, if all of the information that I have gathered about wattage not being a good measurement and reflectors determine the difference between moderate and good lighting and the necessity of VHO over HO systems, what is the best bang for the buck?

I guess the point to this thread is I don't want to waste money purchasing the most expensive lighting system when a lesser expensive model will give me the lighting I need.

If no one has any better suggestions, I have listed 3 Nova Extreme lighting systems that I'm willing to purchase. These are the best priced T-5 systems that I have found. The first seems to be the base model. The second is the promodel. And the 3rd looks like the base model double the bulbs. According to one forum members opinion the reflector on the pro model makes it better than the base (plus it has two more bulbs), but does it make it better than the base +4 more bulbs? And is the T-5 system with 8 bulbs too much light if possible?

Nova extreme T-5
48" x 8" 216 watts (4-bulbs) 2-54 W 10,000°K 2-54 W 460 nm actinic Fan Cooled with a contoured single lamp reflector

Nova Extreme Pro T-5
48" x 12" 324 watts (6 bulbs) 3-54 watt 10,000°K 3-54 watt 460 nm actinic Fan Cooled with individually contoured reflectors

Nova Extreme T-5 w/ Lunar Lights
48" x 11-3/5" 432 watts (8 Blubs) 8-54 watt SlimPaq 460nm Actinic and 10000°K T-5 HO lamps Fan cooled 4 lunar lights with parabolic reflector
 
The 8-bulb Extreme (your last link) still has one single reflector, FWIW. The other two you posted don't. It might not seem like a big deal, but a major reason why some people like T5 over other forms of fluorescent (PC or T12 VHO) is because the small size of the bulb allows you to use individual reflectors - otherwise, there's not much that makes a T5 fixture special. Meanwhile, the first two fixtures you list DO have individual reflectors.

If you don't want to spend on an 8-lamp fixture with good reflectors (I'm sure ATI, SLS, Geismann, others make them) then IMHO the middle fixture is the best out of those you listed.

(That said, if it were my money, I'd go with MH. ;) There are competitively priced pre-built MH rigs available that eliminate the need to fiddle with setting things up yourself, so personally, I don't see that as justification to pick T5 over MH. Of course, it's mostly a matter of personal preference, and at the risk of this degrading into yet another MH vs T5 battle, I'll stop there!)
 
And FWIW, the "watts per gallon of water" rule of thumb has ALWAYS been flawed, IMHO. As a case in point, the PAR output from one 250w MH rig might be two times that of another 250w MH rig, depending on choice between two 10k bulbs - much less different color bulbs, different ballasts, or different reflectors. With those factors, it can be more like three times the difference. That's a pretty unacceptable margin of error for a rule of thumb regarding something so important to our tanks IMHO, and doesn't even take into account the efficiency of MH vs. other styles of lighting, much less the dimensions of the tank, water clarity, etc.
 

amnesia

New member
Have you looked into a retrofit kit with better reflectors?

Ice Cap makes pre-wired 4 bulb 48" kits with their SLR reflectors.

48" Pre-wired Retro

There are also just plain old retro kits if you have an existing hood, or are willing to build one.


Through my research I have found, that the Nova Pro fixtures are the only ones available, that cram that many bulbs into a 12" space for narrow tanks like yours and mine.

I could be wrong on this one, but I think the Nova Pro reflector may actually be a single reflector, individually contoured to each bulb. I don't know if that would make much difference compared to individual reflectors or not.
 

reefscape15

New member
Any DIY setup you do will be cheaper than buying something pre-made that has the same quality. Also, you can pick the bulbs you want right off the get-go instead of getting a fixture with 6 bulbs that kind of looks okay and then replacing them anyways. I have the Nova Extreme 24" and with the bulbs that were shipped in the fixture (10k and 460's) stuff sort of looked washed out. I switched to 12k, Reef Blue 10k, 460, and 420 and everything looked 10 times better and i noticed that SPS polyp expansion was greater under the newer bulbs. Having said all that, if you still are wanting to buy a pre-made fixture, I would have to recommend a 6 or 8 bulb T-5 fixture only if it has individual reflectors. If you aren't opposed to MH lighting, i'd do 2 250watt MH with LED or T-5 supplement. I have my first MH light thats been running for about 2 months now and i will never again have a tank with out halide lighting. IMO there is nothing nicer looking than MH, and the depth penetration is unmatched by anything out there.
 

Bigwyll

New member
So, of the options I presented the best choice is the Nova Extreem Pro because of the individual contoured reflector. But I may have to purchase better bulbs.

My gripe about the MH are how they seem so complicated. I am no electrician. Not even really that handy. I'm attempting to build my own sump and I am baffled. (Yes the pun was intended)

From what I understand you can get the same quality lighting from a decent T-5 set up for less money than it would cost to purchase a MH set up. If I am wrong, please let me know. Like I said. I'm looking for the best bang for my buck.
 

thegrun

Team RC
I went MH, but I believe you will be happy with the Nova Pro. It will not quite have the dramatic look of MH, but you will spend less on electricity and they will produce less heat, possibly saving you from having to buy a chiller.
 

Bigwyll

New member
<a href=showthread.php?s=&postid=14832569#post14832569 target=_blank>Originally posted</a> by amnesia
Have you looked into a retrofit kit with better reflectors?

Ice Cap makes pre-wired 4 bulb 48" kits with their SLR reflectors.

48" Pre-wired Retro

There are also just plain old retro kits if you have an existing hood, or are willing to build one.


Through my research I have found, that the Nova Pro fixtures are the only ones available, that cram that many bulbs into a 12" space for narrow tanks like yours and mine.

I could be wrong on this one, but I think the Nova Pro reflector may actually be a single reflector, individually contoured to each bulb. I don't know if that would make much difference compared to individual reflectors or not.

Let me see if I have this right. If I purchase this kit. All I have to do is purchase T-5 VHO bulbs and plug it into a ballast then plug into the wall? And what makes this better than the Nova Extreme Pro is four VHO bulbs as comparted to 6 HO bulbs with the Nova system?

Anyone?
 

Reverend Reefer

New member
<a href=showthread.php?s=&postid=14837822#post14837822 target=_blank>Originally posted</a> by Bigwyll
Let me see if I have this right. If I purchase this kit. All I have to do is purchase T-5 VHO bulbs and plug it into a ballast then plug into the wall? And what makes this better than the Nova Extreme Pro is four VHO bulbs as comparted to 6 HO bulbs with the Nova system?

Anyone?

retro kits aren't really "better" or necessarily "cheaper", the main point to remember about what amnesia said is:

"if you have an existing hood".

since i'm assuming you don't have a hood/fixture, then the nova would be better for you (also noting that you ain't so handy). i'd go with the pro model since you get the hood, fan and individual reflectors (really makes a big difference with T5HO).

also, don't get tricked, i think some other places sell T5 lighting, but they are normal output and not high output, so make sure you get the T5H0 54W (for 48"). also, look at this forum for which bulbs to get, the choice of bulbs really makes a difference:

http://www.reefcentral.com/forums/showthread.php?s=&threadid=1604777
 

KarlBob

New member
To the best of my knowledge, there is no such thing (to date) as T5 VHO bulbs. There are T12 VHO (Very High Output) bulbs and T8 VHO bulbs, but T5 bulbs are either NO (Normal Output) or HO (High Output).

Some people are overdriving T5HO lamps (bulbs) using an advanced ballast like the IceCap 660, and calling the result T5 VHO lighting, but the lamps themselves are still T5HO.

There's overpaying, and then there's getting what you pay for. Figuring out which you've done is not always easy, even with hindsight.

As far as I know, Nova Extreme multi-lamp reflectors, even the contoured ones, are simply not as effective as individual reflectors. That's one of the reasons why they charge more for the Nova Extreme Pro fixtures. They also tack on the moonlights and stuff, and they may upcharge you more than the individual reflectors are worth, but that's business. When you buy someone's "advanced" line as opposed to their "entry level" line, you pay more.

I own a Nova Extreme 48" T5HO fixture with two lamps. There's only one reflector, and I don't think it's contoured. I can grow softies and mushrooms all the way to the bottom of my tank, LPS mostly in the top half of my tank, and SPS not at all. Even M. digitata, which is supposed to be a pretty tolerant SPS, does not survive. The nutrient level in my tank probably contributes to SPS deaths, and I'm sure the chemical warfare agents produced by my softies do their share of the SPS-killing, but I think that my cheap two bulb/one reflector light fixture shares part of the blame, too.

Personally, I like softies and LPS, so I'm happy. If you want to keep SPS, I suggest that you either purchase the Pro fixture or look into one of the other suggestions you've received in this thread.

Edit: A fellow member of my local reef club is a retired radiation saftety engineer, and he believes that every tank should have a canopy, because reflected light from the surface of the tank carries some risk of UV damage to the eyes, whether the fixture is T5, PC, or Metal Halide. All I know is that I'm not an expert in radiation safety. Now I'm thinking about adding a canopy, scrapping my Nova Extreme, and installing a retrofit kit with individual reflectors in the canopy. I'm not handy, either, but I'm rather fond of my eyeballs.
 
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Bigwyll

New member
Wow this just keeps getting better and better. Now I need to wear UV blockers when I do my water changes.

Thanks for all the info. I have learned a lot within this one thread. I think I'll go with the Nova Extreme Pro. When I get a bigger set up I'll look into retros or MH
 

reefscape15

New member
Good choice. You will be happy with the Extreme Pro. It's a very simple plug-and-play fixture, and all you need to provide is a few timers to create dusk till dawn and have your fans cycle on and off. Enjoy!
 
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