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Review: Marineland Hidden LED Lighting System

LED lights are all the rage these days, offering promises of dramatically lower energy consumption and long life.

Until recently, all aquarium LED lighting systems were external units intended to be placed on top of a tank. Marineland has recently introduced their new Hidden LED Lighting System which is fully enclosed and waterproof. It can be used inside an aquarium hood or actually submersed in the water.

I have a dual stack of custom-made 50 gallon tanks which are fully enclosed. To light these tanks, I use marine-style fluorescent end caps powered by an external ballast. Recently, one set of end-caps shorted out blowing out my expensive Ott bulb.

It was time to try something new and hence this review. At the ACA Convention, I heard of this new product, so I had it in mind. I paid about $48 US on sale for a 17" unit.

Marineland offers both a 17" and 21" version of the Hidden LED Lighting System which combines 6,500K white and 460nm blue LEDs for general aquarium illumination. The switch provided is 3-way (Off, Blue, and Blue+White LEDs) which equates to off, lunar and daytime lighting. Marineland does not rate either lighting system by tank size or watts. Instead, these units are rated in lumens. I don't think most freshwater aquarists are familiar with lumen ratings, but the 17-inch until offers 400 lumens and the 21" unit comes in at 550 lumens.

Installation

Either the 17 or 21-inch unit may be attached with suction cups or by clipping to the tank frame. Marineland provides a clever attachment system that works well. I used the clips to attach to an internal rail I installed in my tank. It's easy to pull the unit out for cleaning.

An external switch is provided and the small power supply is plugged into it. Here are a couple of illustrations so you get the idea:

Marineland Hidden LED Lighting System Diagram 

Installation Options

How well does it work?

The lunar light mode provides a nice blue accent to the tank. This is a great mode to use first thing in the morning when you are trying to wake up your fish.

With all LEDs on, however, lighting for my 50 gallon tank was inadequate. Marineland bills this item as a "complete, submersible lighting system" and given the price, I was expecting higher light output. The light output might be OK for a smaller tank, for example a 15-20 gallon tank. 

The light has a shimmering effect because the blue LEDs are always on. It's kind of cool, but it makes it a bit hard to see the fish. 

Recommendations

I can't give a glowing (no pun intended) recommendation for this product because the light output is so low. I own several other Marineland LED systems, such as the Single Brite units and they seem markedly brighter to me. It could be that the Single Brite systems include a tiny reflector behind each LED which amplifies light. The 18" Single Brite is rated at 300 lumens compared to the 400 lumen 17" Hidden LED system and it appears twice as bright to me. 

I use an 18" Single Brite on a 40G tank of about the same size and the illumination is great.

Final Thoughts

I wish Marineland had forgone the blue LEDs and included more white leds with a better reflector. This product really is a great idea, but it falls short in execution.

Fortunately, I don't grow plants and the fish don't seem to mind the light. I was happy I was able to find a product to replace my end caps and lower my energy costs, but I compromised on having a nicely lit tank.

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