T5 Lighting

T5 lighting, otherwise known as T5 High Output (HO) fluorescents, are high performance lights suitable for saltwater aquariums.  Their slim design allows the use of multiple T5 tubes in a compact light fixture for keeping photosynthetic corals.

T5 Lighting

T5 lighting tubes by ATI

T5  Lighting Vs Metal Halide Lights

T5’s are a good alternative to metal halide lights for reef aquariums and are fully capable of promoting photosynthesis in corals without the high amount of heat associated with metal halides.  But where you would use two or three 250W metal halide bulbs for example, multiple T5 bulbs will be required to replicate the same amount of light output in terms of equivalent wattage.

T5 Lighting | Bulb Wattage

The wattage of T5 light tubes corresponds to their length:

  • 24W — 22″ tube to fit 24″ light fixtures

  • 39W — 34″ tube to fit 36″ light fixtures

  • 54W — 46″ tube to fit 48″ light fixtures

  • 80W — 58″ tube to fit 60″ light fixtures

T5 Lighting | Available Spectrums

T5 aquarium lights are available in an array of spectrums (or Kelvins) ranging from daylight (6,000K), white (14,000K), blue (14,000K/actinic combination), to Pure Actinic and Purples (the ultra-violet 420nm spectrum)

The 6,000K spectrum simulates the reef just below the water’s surface at mid-day.  6,000K is also the spectrum that encourages the most growth in photosynthetic corals.  6,000K T5s appear slightly yellow which is why they are not as favored.

The 14,000K spectrum is a very white light that gives a crisp blueish-white tint to the water.  Most aquarists prefer 14,000K over 6,000K T5s for the look they give their saltwater aquariums.

T5 aquarium lights are unique in that some manufacturers are able to combine 14,000K and 420nm actinic combinations into the same tube.  This spectrum combination gives a deep blue light, similar to the ocean at 20 feet or more.  Corals will also fluoresce with this T5 tube color spectrum.

420nm Pure Actinics are purely for bringing out the maximum amount of fluorescence in corals and are used in combination with 6,000K or 14,000K tubes.  Actinics can be used to create a dawn and dusk effect in the lighting cycle.

T5 Aquarium Light Fixtures

It is important to note that not all T5 lighting fixtures are created equal!

When purchasing a T5 aquarium light fixture, ensure that it is fitted with an electronic ballast.  Electronic ballasts are designed to properly drive T5 tubes at high output, giving you the most light for your aquarium. Beware of T5 lighting fixtures with cheap ballasts. While the bulbs will still light up, they will be under-driven and not provide the intensity of light needed for photosynthetic corals, even if you are using high quality T5 tubes!

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