2020 Aqua Illumination LED Product Review
Looking for a great, high-end LED Aquarium Light? You should take a serious look at the Aqua Illumination HD lights. Aqua Illumination offers 3 different models:
Already know what you want? If so, you can jump right to the product pages on Amazon.com to select the model you’re thinking about. If you’re looking for more information, scroll down below.
Who are these lights not for?
These lights are not for the casual reef tank owner who is just starting to involved in keeping corals, or someone on a serious budget. You can find less costly models, with fewer features and less customization capability that will happily grow your corals. If this is too rich for your blood, you might want to check out a few of these less expensive options. Buyer beware that some of the least expensive options are not made by manufacturers with brands you know and can trust.
Who are these aquarium LEDs for?
Check out this short promo video:
What are the differences between the three AI Hydra HD models?
The short answer to the question is that each of these reef-caliber LED lights has a different number of LEDs, which affects the intensity of the light output as well as the relative footprint. The LEDs are laid out in clusters, so the more clusters you buy, the broader the light output and the more intense the output is in the areas in your tank that benefit from the overlapping light patter. To get started, let’s look at the simple summary below:
- Prime HD has 13 LEDs
- Hydra 26 HD has 26 LEDs
- Fifty-Two HD has…you guessed it…52 LEDs, but there is a little more to it.
But there are also some standard features across all 3 models:
- Each model features high quality 80-degree lenses that provide the best balance of power and spread to give you happy corals. You’ll get the right amount of light throughout your tank because they have 80-degree lenses. Too much spread and the PAR will be weak and dispersed—too focused and you’ll be frying the critters immediately below and shading the rest of your tank.
- Each model also has a mixture of cool white, royal blue, blue, red, green and 400nm and 415nm LEDs
Let’s take a closer look at some of the features of each of the three models
Aqua Illumination Prime HD
The Aqua Illumination Prime HD is a nano model that offers Wi-Fi control at a relatively affordable price. It is the smallest of the three available options, consuming an energy-sipping 55 watts and with petite dimensions of 4.88 inches length x ~4.88 inches width x 1.34 inches thick.
Please note, your actual model will not hover. That’s just some awesome Photoshop stuff the manufacturer did!
There are 13 LEDs, in the following configuration:
- 3 – Cree XP-G2 Cool White (> 70 CRI)
- 3 – Cree XT-E Royal Blue
- 3 – Cree XP-E2 Blue
- 1 – Cree Deep Red 660nm
- 1 – Cree XP-E2 Green
- 1 – SemiLED 415nm
- 1 – SemiLED 400nm
You will note that this ratio/pattern of lights is typical for all three of the AI models. It delivers a peak PAR of 100 micro mols radiation at a depth of 24 inches and a spread of 24 x 24 inches, which is a reasonable amount of energy for most of the photosynthetic organisms you would want to keep in your tank. You control the actual light output over WIFI with their app, which I will cover later.
Aqua Illumination Hydra 26 HD
The Aqua Illumination Hydra LED 26 HD is their middle-range model that provides some serious PAR output and consumes just 90 watts of electricity from the wall. The AI 26 has 26 LEDs housed in a manifold with the following dimensions: 7.28-inch length x 5.376-inch width and a height/thickness of 1.6 inches.
The 26 LEDs are made up of the following individual components:
- 6 – Cree XP-G2 Cool White (> 70 CRI)
- 6 – Cree XT-E Royal Blue
- 6 – Cree XP-E2 Blue
- 2 – OSRAM OSLON Deep Red
- 2 – Cree XP-E2 Green
- 2 – SemiLED 415nm
- 2 – SemiLED 400nm
You may not be surprised to see that this component list is exactly 2x what is provided in the AI Prime HD model
AquaIllumination FiftyTwo HD
The AquaIllumination FiftyTwo HD is the largest of the three models, boasting 52 LEDs, providing twice the output at 135 watts. This model is 11.875 inches long x 5.375 wide and 1.6 inches thick.
The 52 LEDs are made up of the following individual components–you can see how they are arranged visually in the image above:
- 12 – Cree XP-G2 Cool White (> 70 CRI)
- 12 – Cree XT-E Royal Blue
- 12 – Cree XP-E2 Blue
- 4 – OSRAM OSLON Deep Red
- 4 – Cree XP-E2 Green
- 4 – SemiLED 415nm
- 4 – SemiLED 400nm
Why are all three models called HD?
HD is a product feature that essentially boosts the output of the lights. You achieve different color temperatures by using different % of the light output from certain colors of the LED lights. Running these AI lights in HD mode essentially redirects that energy from the lower consumption LEDs to higher consumption LEDs, boosting the amount of photosynthetically available radiation, or PAR.
For example, on their website, AI highlights that their Hydra FiftyTwo model, when running at 20K color temperature, generates 725 PAR units (at 12 inches) compared with 575 PAR units when run without. Pretty cool, as long as your corals are ready for all that light.
Do you need a controller to run Aqua Illumination lights?
No, there is no need to run a controller to run your AI lights—you can control them in the cloud using their proprietary app/software.
How to control the lights?
One of the cool things about using Aqua Illumination LED lights is that they can be controlled with an app they call My AI, which is an app that you can use to log in from anywhere and “play” with your new toy. My AI is a cloud-based service that connects to Aqua Illumination devices. You can log in and control your lights from anywhere.
- There is a dashboard for quick access to program your lights schedule or turn them on or off
- In the schedule mode, you can program your LEDs with nearly infinite customizability to come on and off with specifically designed intensities—this can be powerful or overwhelming.
- If you’re new to this, you may appreciate the easy setup mode which walks you through with a setup wizard
- Know what Kelvin rating (K rating) you want your lights running at? You can simply set that using a feature they call the Kelvin wheel to automatically program your lights at 17,000 K, etc.
- Also, be sure not to burn your corals—use the acclimation mode to allow for a smooth transition
Weather mode gives you the ability to control storm effects throughout the day—probably not critical to the health of your corals, but certainly adds a level of interest and coolness to impress your friends
The lunar mode allows you to reduce the nighttime intensity to match the current lunar phase. Many spawning events in the ocean track the lunar cycle so this feature could add a level of beneficial realism to your tank.
How to mount them
One of the other things I really like about the Aqua Illumination LED family of lights is the range of mounting options and other accessories that are available.
The Hydra LED Mounting System is an easy-to-use, adjustable tank mounting option you can get in one of three configurations:
If you prefer a lower-tech/expense option, there are also a few flexible tank mount options as well.
AquaIllumination LED Product Review Summary
If you are in the market for a full-featured, full-priced LED aquarium light, it’s hard to go wrong with the Aqua Illumination models. They are a great LED light option that puts out high-quality light that your corals will love and they come with an app that turns your lights into an infinitely customizable video game–perfect for the gadget-minded aquarium enthusiast.
Interested in buying or learning more?