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Quick review of RapidLED Aurora pucks

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  • Quick review of RapidLED Aurora pucks

    Hi everyone,

    I'm an old reef guy who has been absent from here for a while but I recently set up a new reef in my living room. It's a 50g (36x18x18) with a center brace and it's been up for about 60 days. When I first set it up, I put a T5 fixture over it with three actinic (Deep Blue) bulbs and a single 10K. I ordered a pair of Aurora pucks from RapidLED.com though because I wanted shimmer and a bit higher PAR values, as well as controllability for sunrise and sunset from my Apex. I'm not a big fan of LED "disco" lights so I wanted something with concentrated output to try to get the shimmer I see with halides.

    So I spent roughly $400 for a DIY set from Rapid, which included four drivers, cables for APEX connection, two heatsinks, optics, two fans, two hanging kits, splash shields, and all of the little bits needed. Just looking my tank from a gallons / puck perspective I know two of these is a LOT of light, especially since I have only about 16" from the water surface to the top of the sand bed. The kit arrived four days after I ordered it, and I assembled it in about 3 hours. I probably spent another two hours building the wall mounts and fitting the driver equipment into my cabinet. It requires five outlets, four drivers plus a wall wart to run the fans, that are plugged into a power strip which feeds from a single outlet on my APEX. I switch the outlet on a half hour before my lights fire up and switch it off a half hour after they're all off. Basically I'm just switching the fans by powering the outlet up and down.

    Programming the APEX took about an hour as well, and everything worked perfectly on the first try. The pucks give you four channels of control, one that has whites, one that has blues, one that is UV, and one that is "mixed colors" including some red, orange, and green wavelength light. Initially I mounted the lights about 10" from the surface and set the whites / blues to 30% max and the color / UV to 15%. I know there are some resolution "issues" with the APEX analog ports so over the first few days I moved these up to about 50% max on whites and blues with color and UV up to 25%. After a few more days, I moved the lights down to about 4-5" from the surface and the corals (frags at this point) all seem to be doing well with it. I will freely share programming if anyone needs it. Honestly it was quite a bit simpler than I was expecting. The APEX is somewhat new to me but I have an AC3 on my 180g downstairs that has been running since about 2000. The AC3 was cool in its day, but the APEX takes easy to a whole new level.

    I'll start a build thread / post pictures to show the difference between the T5s and the LEDs. My LPS darkened slightly initially but have stabilized and the monti that I have at the top of the tank that was washed out a bit under the T5s has quickly started to color back up. The shimmer is amazing, the fans are dead quiet, and even the fish look better under these lights. I can finally see the pink tint in the tail of my yellow wrasse.

    I have not had these on the tank for long, but I've seen no adverse affect on the tank in the form of algae growth or coral color changes / retraction. I've actually seen less algae growth on the glass, probably more due to the light distribution than anything else, but it's a positive. I'll post some updates as I add more corals and get a few more weeks on these lights. So far I give them five thumbs up.

    Tom Siler
    Columbus, OH

  • #2
    Thanks Tom. This is really helpful. I have a 92 Gallon corner tank, and I could use some lighting in the back corner (my MH/T5 strip is in the front). I was looking at the pucks, but I figured they could never really provide enough power since they are so small. Awesome post.

    Welcome back as well.

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    • #3
      Thanks. Here are a couple of pics. Amazing how much light these put out. I may snag a PAR meter so I can play more with placement / testing of individual color output, etc. First is under T5s, then the LEDs. These pics were taken one or two days apart IIRC.

      No filtering, etc…. just straight off my iPhone.

      Tom




      Last edited by tsiler; 05-07-2014, 11:31 AM.

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      • #4
        COOL. I'm sure I will post more questions later.

        Did the harness come with those, or did you make them? I've been making mine. My wife thinks they aren't as attractive as she'd like.

        The Apex in the front looks cool, BTW. Mine is the basement.

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        • #5
          Looks good Tom!

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          • #6
            nice. coralline on the crushed coral looks cool.

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            • #7
              I added 10lbs of gulf live sand from Live Rock and Reef to 30lbs of Caribsea Aragamax. Some of the rock in the tank is from there as well. It's got a ton of pink and purple already.

              As for the mounting of the lights, the cables and fittings all came with the kit. The only thing I added was a small aluminum frame that holds them away from the wall. I think I spent about $12 at Home Depot.

              I still have a bit of cable cleanup to do but it's really really nice so far.

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              • #8
                Originally posted by tsiler View Post

                As for the mounting of the lights, the cables and fittings all came with the kit. The only thing I added was a small aluminum frame that holds them away from the wall. I think I spent about $12 at Home Depot.

                I still have a bit of cable cleanup to do but it's really really nice so far.
                So, the aluminum frame you reference: is that the sort of flat looking thing midway up the wires above the lights? It looks like that's what you are referencing.

                If so, what is the aluminum you used? is that like some sort of HVAC aluminum attached to brackets in the wall? Also, are those brackets at the top attached to your wall, not the ceiling? It's a little tough to tell the perspective on the photos.

                My current lighting is hung by an Eye-Hook (O-hook for lay people), at the top, and then some S-Hooks at the lighting fixture. Personally, I don't think it looks bad, but my wife is a little less thrilled.
                Last edited by Rusty; 05-07-2014, 06:03 PM.

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                • #9
                  The aluminum I am referring to is the flat frame halfway down the wires. There are six anchors in the wall (screw-in drywall type) that hold things up. Four are at the top, and two at the middle layer attached to small angle brackets that have a 1/8 by 3/8" aluminum frame that sticks out from the wall 14" to position the lights just forward of the center of the tank. The included wire fittings screw into the anchors, then the wire passes through the aluminum frame and to the lights. It isn't "over the top" pretty but it's simple and fairly elegant. It only took a short time and simple tools to construct. Maybe this pictures tells a better picture.

                  Last edited by tsiler; 05-07-2014, 06:42 PM.

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                  • #10
                    Looking good Tom and welcome back!

                    How old are those T5 bulbs?

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by tsiler View Post
                      The aluminum I am referring to is the flat frame halfway down the wires. There are six anchors in the wall (screw-in drywall type) that hold things up. Four are at the top, and two at the middle layer attached to small angle brackets that have a 1/8 by 3/8" aluminum frame that sticks out from the wall 14" to position the lights just forward of the center of the tank. The included wire fittings screw into the anchors, then the wire passes through the aluminum frame and to the lights. It isn't "over the top" pretty but it's simple and fairly elegant. It only took a short time and simple tools to construct. Maybe this pictures tells a better picture.

                      Oooh, yeah, that looks pretty trendy. My wife would go for that. Final question: in what area of Home Depot did you find those?

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                      • #12
                        They have a selection in the hardware of steel threaded rod, aluminum profiles, steel rod, etc. It's usually near the mailboxes and rope.

                        Lowes and Anderssons both also carry it.

                        The T5s were bought about 60 days ago.

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                        • #13
                          How are to liking them? I had a bad experience with some AI Sol LEDs and if I ever got back into the led game I will be choosing between thes or a kessil a360w

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                          • #14
                            John,

                            My corals have adjusted to them well. I haven't had them long enough to form a real opinion about growth rates etc… but it seems like everything is very happy with them, and IMO there is simply no comparison visually between T5 and these. As to comparing them to more expensive LED offerings, I haven't owned the others so I don't know. I can't imagine the others being worth 2x the money unless you're extremely picky.

                            I have ordered kits to put LEDs over my 180 as well…

                            Tom

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                            • #15
                              Good deal. I run halide now and after the probs I had with the Sol I'm very hesitant. I really like the array of these and the kessil. I have a 24" cube so I would only need one. I will make up my mind when I need to replace bulbs. Is each channel adjustable? Do they ramp up and down with the apex?
                              Keep us updated

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