As many in the hobby know, I've been a marine hobbyist for at least the past four decades, which has given me the opportunity to review many fine products, many of which are posted on my website 'saltcorner.com.' At the 2014 MACNA event in Denver, besides listening to many great speakers, I also made the rounds of various product booths and viewed/discussed many longtime favorite and new products with company representatives to stay up-to-date. There was also some personal interest in LED lighting for 'freshwater' planted aquariums! The reason being is I'm a member of a local aquarium society who has been twisting my arm to setup a freshwater aquarium for 'many' years! Since my arm was getting more painful, my doctor prescribed a freshwater aquarium. Joking aside, I asked many of the lighting manufacturers at this MACNA about lighting for this venture, one I hadn't been an active part of for over forty years.
Many of the companies who know me sort of smiled and raised their eyebrows when asked these questions! All were very helpful and voiced their thoughts on that direction, with one company, Current/Ecoxotic finding my curiosity quite stimulating, as they knew me 'only' as a long time marine hobbyist. After explaining the painful arm scenario, which brought a smile to the face of their representative, we discussed in length their newest freshwater LED fixtures.
Since I had recently given the local aquarium society a one-hour presentation on LED lighting for marine aquariums, was able to question various quality aspects of their fixtures. The more questions asked about freshwater LED fixtures, the more information I gained, and it began to be very clear they had LED fixtures well suited for freshwater planted 'and' also marine reef aquariums! With my focus on learning more about LED fixtures for freshwater systems, our lengthy conversation, which encompassed many aspects of both hobby directions, proved to be quite satisfactory!
When asked the cost of some interesting fixtures for my new venture, I was pleasantly surprised to find they were exceptionally also reasonable price-wise for not only their overall quality, but also their up-to-date technology! I then reached for one of the fixture boxes on the nearby rack and said I'd like to utilize this model and can I pay you directly? I quickly found out the box was empty, as many were to save on shipping costs to and from these kinds of events.
Their representative smiled, and said no, we'll ship you one, no charge, and would like you to try it and tell us what you honestly think after you have it up and running. I must add here, if I don't like the item being tested, you'll never see it in print! But will let the manufacturer know my reasoning for that, and that has happened in the past! Furthermore, if the company wants the product back, they pay the postage, if not, I offer to pay for it and use it if applicable to my needs or if not, donate it to an aquarium society.
Moving on, two freshwater LED fixtures were sent, the Current Satellite Freshwater LED+, and the E-Series Full Spectrum LED Light.
As to the Satellite Freshwater LED+, it contains bright 6500K white LEDs paired with full-spectrum Red, Green, Blue (RGB) LEDs that can 'all' be adjusted with the supplied 32 key remote control to provide the exact overall color tone one wishes to have in their aquarium environment! Moreover, the fixture comes with six preprogramed optimized color presets, which can further be 'tweaked' as each of the four different color LEDs can have their intensity increased or decreased individually to produce exactly the color tone desire. In fact, there's probably not a hue/color tone that can't be had to satisfy one's needs/enhance fish color significantly.
The remote also has four memory settings; therefore different colored environments can be stored and used as desired. Also, Photosynthetically Available Radiation (PAR) at 12 inches below the lamps is 36, and at an 18 inch depth its 28, which is said to be quite adequate for many planted aquariums. As to where I gathered those PAR requirements, I had an opportunity to speak with a degreed aquarium horticulturist at the MACNA event (at another brand's booth) and was informed that 6500K to 8000K fixtures having a PAR level of 20 - 50 to be the best for most planted freshwater aquariums. Therefore, with that information, it seems the Current Satellite Freshwater LED+ right out of the box is an ideal light fixture for almost all freshwater-planted aquariums in the depth range of 12 - 18 inches!
Furthermore, the remote also makes it possible to cycle the light fixture through various degrees of sunrise/sunset timeframes, cloud cover, and even varying thunderstorm activity with lightening effects! This is, however, an 'on demand' aspect, i.e., via buttons on the remote where the user selects the degree of the activity by pushing its buttons. The light fixture then preforms that chosen activity until the user cancels it and returns the lamp to its previous lighting mode.
Having a built in timer that would have allowed a programmable automatic on/off schedule along with an automatic ramp up (sunrise) mode to begin the chosen regular lighting timeframe and a ramp down (sunset) to end its timeframe would have been very nice feature. And yes, a separate appliance timer can handle an automatic on/off schedule, but leaping directly to full intensity may not be ideal for some aquariums with light sensitive fish. Nevertheless, the user can manually, by using the remote control, place the fixture near the end of its regular lighting timeframe into a ramp down mode, then simply leave it in that mode until the next day (i.e., a moonlit timeframe), and then use the remote to ramp up its intensity the next day to the point where the regular daily lighted time period can begin with a push of another button. The only negative is the user has to be present to manually accomplish these changes. Not something many of us can do, especially on a daily routine.
Even though this fixture lacks auto on/off and sunrise and sunset modes, this cool running, visually pleasing black fixture with adjustable docking legs appears to have the capabilities that would satisfy most freshwater aquarists wanting to maintain plants that do well in the 20 - 40 PAR range.
As to the E-Series Full Spectrum LED Light, Current/Ecoxotic was listening to those who had interest the above fixture! This 8000K fixture has automatic on/off and sunrise/sunset timeframes! It also has a programmable/adjustable intensity moonlight timeframe between the sunset and sunrise timeframes, if desired! And PAR wise, it's more than twice as powerful as its predecessor. PAR at 12 inches below the lamps is 105, at an 18 inches its 60, and at 24 inches its 45! And if too powerful for one's aquarium, its lamp intensity can easily be reduced or its on-hours reduced. And furthermore, ...its light spread is 120 degrees, which helps greatly in preventing dark or poorly lit side areas in the aquarium! A topnotch, excellent feature in my opinion!
This model comes with four preprogramed optimized color presets, and as with the previous model, it can further be 'tweaked' to increase or decrease lamp colors to produce the overall color tone desire. It also has two memory locations so specific custom color spectrums can be saved and viewed as desired. There's also 'on demand' dynamic modes that can be viewed with a push of a button on its supplied 28 key remote control, e.g., thunderstorm with lightening effects, or various cloud cover effects.
Also a visually pleasing black fixture, that comes complete with adjustable docking legs, RGBW LED Controller, Wireless Remote Control, 24VDC Transformer and a Velcro strip for mounting the Controller in a convenient location. For those possibly needing a higher PAR, along with automatic on/off and sunrise/sunset capability, I think this fixture could probably meet all your needs and more!
FYI - The supplied printed instructions for programing this fixture does not, nor does the company's website, contain any discussion on what the small buttons are for that appear on either side of the RGBW Controller's 'Clock Time.' I'm informed that should your dog think the remote a chewy or is damaged in other ways, the programing can still be accessed via these buttons. Replacement remotes, I'm told, are free for the asking is needed.
Summing it up, personally, I prefer the E-Series Full Spectrum LED Light for my small 33 gallon freshwater-planted aquarium, my first 'keep it simple' freshwater aquarium in 40 years, as it offers automatic control over the desired aspects and has greater PAR levels. However it does run warmer than the Satellite Freshwater LED+, but considering it's twice the wattage, find it still within an acceptable operating temperature range.
Furthermore, both fixtures have IP65 (highly resistant to dust and water) and UL1018 (designed specifically for 'aquarium' use) ratings, thereby assuring the purchaser of their quality/suitability and safety for their intended use! And with a full year warranty, that 'also' speaks loudly for their quality! If there are any 'would like's' for future models, a more robust remote control would be nice, especially for people with large fingers!