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Old 09-20-2013, 07:46 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Do we need more PAR?

As many people I too have an aversion to most things new. Virtually all goods, in any market, offered nowadays are not much better than some of their own old versions. The LED fad that has been going on strong is a great example. And like the majority of things in life it is not good or bad. It is what you make out of it.

The fascination with LED does not come from the amazing electricity savings. Which are nothing to write home about anyway if you want a brightly lit tank. Part of the excitement is the look of and LED fixture - the low profile. Except that the need for cooling of high powered LEDs stretches that low profile up. Add the cables, hanging hardware, the ugly DIY look and LEDs really start to shine in their full glory.

"Properly cooled LED will last for many years". Except that now everybody knows that they will not last as long as all manufacturers and sellers claim.

Another "great" thing is the underwater shimmer that LEDs produce. This too is a tall claim and depends on a million things. Shimmer depends on the intensity of the light source, how concentrated it is, if the surface moves well, and how high the light is above the surface. With and LED fixture with many LEDs the shimmer is reduced to a barely exciting play of shadow and light.

All of the things above are ok. One day soon all the things I talk about above will be truly ridiculous because LEDs would have actually become what we, today, like to believe they are. What I see as the worst is something we cannot avoid unless we put some effort to change our mindset. It is that the fascination with gadgets, numbers, and values leads to a separation from the understanding what makes this hobby work. How can that be? If we know more, quantify things and so on then we know more for sure, right. Not exactly. A fascination makes you one sided. A good example is the notion that "more is better". It can really take you far, in any sense you want to think of it.

To be continued today.

Last edited by niko; 09-20-2013 at 09:17 PM..
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Old 09-20-2013, 08:30 AM   #2 (permalink)
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Default Re: Do we need more PAR?

Hi Niko,

Your statements are all valid; of course the true savings of LED's is not the electricity savings but the savings from not replacing my fluorescent tubes on an annual basis.

One of the shortcomings of LED's is the possible inflexibility of the light spectrum; I.E. the spectrum for my plants and the visual 'look' the light imparts on the aquarium. The issue can be circumvented by doing a DIY fixture (with its inherent issues) or using a manufacturer that offer the ability to customize the LED's utilized (BuildMyLED) but many of the fixtures come in a 'fixed' LED configuration so if you don't like the look it produces the only choice is to live with it or sell the fixture. However with fluorescent tubes there is the ability to mix and match or change out bulbs to achieve my desired results.

That said, I currently have only converted one tank to LED lighting which I have used since last spring.

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Old 09-20-2013, 10:48 AM   #3 (permalink)
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Default Re: Do we need more PAR?

Wait a minute Niko. Are you telling me that I'm not seeing shimmer, that my PAR values aren't what they were a year ago when installed my fixture or that I didn't get exactly what I was hoping for when I bought it? I must have been wrong!
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Old 09-20-2013, 09:05 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Default Re: Do we need more PAR?

No, Cavan. I am not making a point about LEDs at all. I am making a point about something we overlook - the connection between the things that make this hobby work. This hobby is not about just growing plants.

As I said - LEDs are not good or bad. You can have extreme shimmer depending on what LEDs you use, how deep is the tank, the surface movement, the position of the LEDs above the tank.

Here's an example of extreme shimmer with 2x50W LEDs:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hk6xM3fNpFM

Not everybody gets such an amazing shimmer. Just buying LEDs does not make all of one's dreams come true. Here are some LED lit planted tanks that show very light or no shimmer at all. Actually I could not find videos of planted tank with any great shimmer:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WpOdHdt6_ew
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3FgCF68XPBY
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vYjxOjBLsiI
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RJdl9PUiu3o

This video has a planted tank with very good shimmer. But look at the water depth - it is very shallow:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature...SDmkoH38#t=438

Last edited by niko; 09-20-2013 at 10:46 PM..
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Old 09-20-2013, 09:54 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Default Re: Do we need more PAR?

Back to my point: A one sided point of view separate us from understanding how this hobby works.

I chose to start this thread talking about LEDs because they are a very good example of a one sided way to look at a planted tank. If you are a bit technically inclined you choose LEDs by wavelength and PAR. You find a combination that produces light with the most PAR and the wavelengths are close to the plant photosynthesis peaks. You also add a few LEDs to make the color of the light pleasing to your eye. Looks like LEDs are indeed an amazing thing.

Except that in this search of technical perfection you miss the big picture. Just like you miss it when you focus too much on any other single aspect of this hobby - fertilizers, filtration, the newest-rarest plant, ongoing algae battles or what everybody says about everything planted tank. Distractions from the things of real value. Depriving you from the full experience you could have.

Here's what gave me the idea for this thread; A friend of mine that knows aquatic plant growing and aquascaping like no one else I know had installed some hydroponic lights over his tank. These lights are engineered to produce high PAR but he didn't know it was insane for planted tank standarts. At 24" the PAR was 90. The PAR was evenly spread over most of the substrate. The tank was problematic in the last 3 months. He didn't know that that brand of hydroponic lights were so effective. Indeed - to get 90 PAR at 24" you need a lot of power. The hydroponic light was only 108 watts and you could not suspect the monstrous PAR that it produced. Without knowing the extreme PAR he got the tank under control. It took crazy amounts of CO2 and crazy amounts of fertilizers added to the water. The PAR meter was used just the other day and gave a clear answer what was going on. Way too much PAR for the environment he was providing in the beginning.

With tons of CO2 and fertilizers the plant growth was great. But not as great as a previous version of the tank with 50% less PAR. The plants in that previous tank had that special vibrant look of true health.

He told me that AquaSoil struggles to grow plants if the light is too much. It is not designed to work under strong light. You have to rely on a crutch - adding extra ferts to the water. Basically you are now forcing things to happen. As usual - if you can you will, you just need to want.

Recently in another thread someone mentioned that at PAR 150 the aquatic plants stop growing. The light is too much. PAR of 150 from a more or less normal bulb looks very bright to the human eye and the planted tank will look like a million dollars. You can certainly get shimmer like in a swimming pool in a bright sunny day. But you really do not want too high PAR. You can find bulbs that look very bright to the human eye but produce low PAR. That was the case with the "previous tank" described above - beautiful strong light but not forcing anything into overdrive. Spectacular plant health, every single leaf. People that are interested in the Japanese contest have seen that tank. The guy does not care much about forums so I cannot link to a picture. Anyway - one can probably make an argument that there is a concept of "optimal PAR" that grows the healthiest looking plants.

Ask any plant head that is on the market for LEDs if they want the highest PAR their money can buy. Find the weirdo that says "Not really". Everybody wants to nail the photosynthetic peaks on the head and have the maximum PAR possible.

I know that not everybody wants a tank that runs itself and looks great all the time. People like action, involvement, drama. But there is a combination of substrate fertilization, light, filtration, flow, and minor water column interventions (ferts, water changes) that produces a low-input, no-issues tank that gives plants the extreme vibrant healthy look. And this is not about the highest PAR. It is not about LEDs vs. hydroponic vs.. fluorescent vs. Metal Halide lights. It is not about algae control, fertilizers, deficiencies and toxicities. It is not about how fast and big the plants grow.

It's about the plants and their interaction with the world you made for them. About small, subtle, intricate details that your mind will be free to notice. It's about enjoyment of finer things. About giving a lot and always getting more in return.

That's aquascaping.

Last edited by niko; 09-20-2013 at 10:36 PM..
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Old 09-21-2013, 07:05 AM   #6 (permalink)
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Default Re: Do we need more PAR?

LEDs, very interesting topic and very thought provoking thread.
Not too long ago when growing exotic-colored Acropora and other hard corals, LED fixtures began to appear. Everyone was sceptical.
HOWEVER, with most hard corals, there is NEVER too much PAR.
Along come these new tangled LED fixtures and WOW, sufficient PAR with much less heat.

So, less heat is what the whole thing was all about initially, at least. You did not need a chiller and had no fear of overheating. The cost then was prohibitive for what you got.

It seems most of the other reasons for buying LEDs are cosmetic.
From my aspect that the 6500K T5 bulbs do a great job, are low enough profile for me, are cost effect enough and do not generate too much heat.
Why the freshwater plant aficionados are so interested in LEDs is an interesting question. It might just be the attraction to new and novel ideas and technology. Are LEDs better? Better for what? That is a personal decision. Perhaps a lot of it is subjective!, not just objective. Some people seriously want to try them. Others may do it for the 'bling'.
I can afford LED fixtures, have one and am not impressed enough to get more at this time. And, historically, is go back to the time of Thomas Edison, LOL! Remember those incandescents?
The important thing is.......this is just a hobby to most of us. Enjoy!
Bill
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Old 09-23-2013, 08:57 AM   #7 (permalink)
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Default Re: Do we need more PAR?

Quote:
Originally Posted by niko View Post
Recently in another thread someone mentioned that at PAR 150 the aquatic plants stop growing. The light is too much. PAR of 150 from a more or less normal bulb looks very bright to the human eye and the planted tank will look like a million dollars. You can certainly get shimmer like in a swimming pool in a bright sunny day. But you really do not want too high PAR.
Niko, you're not understanding what i said previously. In a previous post, someone asked if it was possible to have 'too much' light. My response was, yes there is, because there is a point where the addition of more light (measured in PAR) does not result in making the plants grow faster (measured in terms of plant mass). Of course, it is important to realize that this is assuming that light is the limiting factor and everything else (CO2, ferts, etc) is non-limiting. The PAR value that corresponded to where the plants did not grow faster was around 150 PAR. They didn't stop growing, they simply didn't grow any faster.

Also, 'brightness' is a somewhat tricky topic... From what i understand, the human eye is the most sensitive to green light so a light source w/ a lot of green light will appear 'brighter' than a light source w/out a lot of green light, even though they may have the same PAR values. A good example I always think of are the Giesemann 'Aqua flora' bulbs. These bulbs (supposedly) have a high PAR value but, to my eyes at least, they always appear very dim, simply because they do not have as large of a green spike as some of the other bulbs. This is why it is suggested that they be combined with the Giesemann 'Midday' bulbs because those bulbs are designed to look 'brighter' to the human eye, balancing out the color w/ the 'Aqua flora' bulbs...

Quote:
Originally Posted by niko View Post
I know that not everybody wants a tank that runs itself and looks great all the time. People like action, involvement, drama. But there is a combination of substrate fertilization, light, filtration, flow, and minor water column interventions (ferts, water changes) that produces a low-input, no-issues tank that gives plants the extreme vibrant healthy look. And this is not about the highest PAR. It is not about LEDs vs. hydroponic vs.. fluorescent vs. Metal Halide lights. It is not about algae control, fertilizers, deficiencies and toxicities. It is not about how fast and big the plants grow.

It's about the plants and their interaction with the world you made for them. About small, subtle, intricate details that your mind will be free to notice. It's about enjoyment of finer things. About giving a lot and always getting more in return.

That's aquascaping.
This i agree with. That said, relating this conversation back to LED's and PAR values, each of us needs to consider what type of plants we are looking to grow and match the PAR values roughly with those plants. Certain plants are more difficult to grow because they require more light (and everything that goes with it) to grow. The minimum PAR values required to grow, say, Microsorum sp. is going to be a lot less than that required to grow, say, Pogostemon helferi. In this regards, LED's are great because many of the fixtures are dimmable, allowing you to tailor the PAR value with the plants you want to grow. This is actually a great example of having technology fit the desires of the grower and what they want to do.
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Old 09-23-2013, 01:23 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Default Re: Do we need more PAR?

My biggest problem with T5HO, which made me interested in leds, is that they cost more than 20$ each where I reside, in Canada. So I find leds interesting.

There are the T8 bulbs but it is complicated finding 3 foot ones and no way I can find a good T8 fixture which is 3 foot long, there are only 4 foot ones.

Shimmer is a thing I do not really care about.

Also got frustrated when one T5NO tube failed on me after 4 months, and it did cost 17$.

Michel.
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Old 09-24-2013, 12:26 AM   #9 (permalink)
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Default Re: Do we need more PAR?

Well for my 2 cents. I went with DIY led for the following reasons.

1 Temperature control.Last several summers temps. in N.Y. have climbed up to 97 degrees plus at times. I have no A.C. Lost some plants and one betta 2012. Was away at that time.

2 Light control. Wanted to reduce growth rate by lowering par with out having to hang a fixture. Travel a lot for work and needed a way to keep tank in balance while away. Like option to also increase par if seeking faster growth. I.E. getting carpet plants to fill in quickly.

3 DIY because offerings from other light manufactures didn't fit the bill. ADA Aquasky did not have a dimmer at $200. TMC had an arduino type controller for $300. Twice the price of the light fixture. But hey you get lightning effects! And Ecoxotic Eco-Pico fixture reasonable price, has dimmer but wrong color temp 12,000K. More suited for Salt aquarium. Decided to build my own. Right color temp. 6700k. Adjustable up to about 145 PAR. And I think my design is aesthetically pleasing. Cost just under $100.


Click image for larger version

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For me the main advantage of LED is dimming control. I don't understand why every manufacture can't or won't add a simple potentiometer to their arrays. The cost for me was about $5 with the fancy knurled aluminum knob. The cost between the dimming and non dimming driver was also insignificant. Also about $5 difference. I believe if manufactures want to sell more leds to planted aquarium owners they need to build with lights in the proper spectrum and add at least simple dimming controls. It is not necessarily about just more PAR but the ability to control PAR while not having to get involved with raising/lowering fixtures and still maintain a relatively small foot print.

Regards; Rob

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Old 09-24-2013, 12:05 PM   #10 (permalink)
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Default Re: Do we need more PAR?

a light fixture nothing with out a good reflector and good bulb.
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